Over the next three weeks, MLSsoccer.com will take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 12-16-6 (42 points); 45 GF / 51 GA (-6 GD)
In 2012, Montrealers gathered in numbers – and twice set attendance records doing so – hoping that their new team would make their hearts jump with emotion every weekend. They got that, and then some.
Sneaking into the playoffs looked a stretch at First Kick, but the general consensus was that an enthralling run for a postseason spot would do. And so it went, as the Impact were very much in the thick of things – even notching a barely believable five wins on the trot late in the year, the second-longest such streak in MLS this season – until an early September loss in Columbus effectively ended the chase.
The Impact faithful also had the joy of getting acquainted with some big-name signings. Whereas the arrival of Marco Di Vaio was anticipated, the addition of 2006 World Cup winner Alessandro Nesta very much caught the community by surprise.
And speaking of surprises, Jesse Marsch's departure a mere week after game No. 34 was nothing short of a bombshell. Montreal fans might not know what's in store for 2013 yet, but there’s one certainty: it never gets boring at Stade Saputo.
Best Moment of the Year
It wasn’t your typical stadium opening, for Stade Saputo first hosted a game in 2008, but Montrealers still felt like they were discovering a new place on June 16. Construction wouldn’t be fully completed until the very last game of the season, but on that early summer night, passion nevertheless ran wild in the stands. The Impact cruised to a 4-1 win against the Seattle Sounders, Felipe scored the first-ever goal in the refurbished arena and former Sounder Lamar Neagle put the finishing touch late on.
Worst Moment of the Year
Out-thought. Out-fought. Out-competed. After two strong showings at their new stadium, Montreal seemed completely out of it during Marco Di Vaio’s debut, a 3-0 drubbing by archrivals Toronto FC, who avenged their derby loss four months prior. Montreal looked like they’d had trouble getting out of bed in the morning, let alone win a rivalry match, and a visiting Alessandro Nesta was left wondering what on earth he could possibly do to help.
With nine points to show for their 17 trips away from Quebec, you could have forgiven Montreal for developing a fear of flying. But when they did things right away from home, they did them in spectacular fashion. Sanna Nyassi’s stunning surge, nutmeg and game-winning finish against New England at Gillette Stadium on August 12 had Hassoun Camara utter the words “but de l’année [goal of the year].” The Frenchman’s prediction was not quite right in the end, but it was a ridiculous goal indeed.
Portland Timbers fans were outraged when Gavin Wilkinson traded Troy Perkins away to Montreal on August 7. Eighteen days later, in the 78th minute of Montreal’s 3-0 win against D.C. United, the ‘keeper reminded everyone of the determination for which (among other things) he had been so loved in Portland. As Dwayne De Rosario put a low cross in for Marcelo Saragosa, Perkins never, not for one second, thought about conceding as he hurried to his far post and made the last-second stop.
He started seven of the Impact’s first 12 games on the bench, and yet the Montreal fans and media still voted him team MVP. That just goes to show how consistently brilliant Patrice Bernier was after the scintillating May 26 goal-and-assist performance that marked his permanent return to the Impact XI. The 33-year-old’s impeccable touch on the ball, ability to dictate the tempo of games and mind-boggling composure over penalty kicks, which made him the side’s top scorer with nine goals, had unquestionably been missed during the near-decade he spent away from his home province.
“Gem” was an oft-used word to describe Felipe in 2012. Comfortable on the ball, full of energy and mature beyond his years, the Brazilian was a standout performer in MLS. Most Montreal supporters had never heard the name Felipe Campanholi Martins when the club announced his signing in December 2011. They were soon chanting his first name at Stade Saputo, as if the 22-year-old had become one of their own.
Three offseason needs
1. Learn how to play 90 minutes: If soccer games lasted 60 minutes, Montreal would already be a top team in MLS (or, a cynic might say, they would find another way to concede goals). The Impact conceded a shocking 28 goals in the final half hour of games in 2012, including 17 goals in last quarter of an hour. Did they lack energy toward the end? Did they lack composure? Whatever the reason, this is a major issue.
2. Find ways to work the ball wide: If the Montreal Impact had twins named “Middle” and “Flanks," the former would be spoiled rotten. The 2012 team spent the bulk of its time on the field working combinations in the middle, with wide midfielders tucking in. Trying to surprise the opponent by suddenly widening the play seldom yielded dividends. If Montreal are to diversify their play, they will need some reinforcements out wide.
3. Reverse the trend on dead balls: Two goals scored. Twelve conceded. Montreal were ineffective on corners and free kicks this season, and they quite simply leaked goals when facing such situations. Finding a dead ball specialist so that Marco Di Vaio (right), who was in charge of these during the latter part of the season, can be unleashed in the penalty box might help. And on the defensive side of things, much will rest on the shoulders of the team’s three former Serie A center backs.