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)
This one’s tough. Jesse Marsch really didn’t deserve to get let go, or “have a mutual parting of the ways based upon philosophical differences.” He took an expansion team to the brink of playoff contention, which just doesn’t happen that often, and is usually rewarded with increased confidence instead of a golden parachute.
However … Marsch kind of made his bed. He waited way too long to switch from the 4-4-2 to the 4-2-3-1. He stuck with “his” guys even when the other guys were playing better. He went overly conservative with his fullbacks, or overly aggressive. He, by most accounts, had trouble integrating the young and the old behind the scenes.
In the end, was it unfair to ask a first-time coach to boss a team that included both the greatest central defender of the back-four era and a No. 1 draft pick who wanted to finish his degree before playing for a paycheck?
Probably. Almost definitely.
And given the history with these things, I have a hard time believing that the Impact will actually be better in 2013 than they were in 2012. Marsch got them pretty close, after all.
But you could argue that Montreal preemptively rebuilt so that they wouldn’t have to face the type of midseason bloodletting that we saw in Portland and Philadelphia this past year. It just wasn’t working for the Impact, so they let the coach go.
“Close” isn’t where Joey Saputo – or Alessandro Nesta – wanted to be, after all. And with the Serie A veterans dropping some unsubtle hints along the way, the change almost certainly had to be made.
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Whoever comes in as the new head coach – and yes, it’s worrisome that there’s no one in that role as of yet – will be expected to run the 4-2-3-1, and they’d better hope that Marco Di Vaio rediscovers the scoring touch he seemed to have left behind in Bologna.
The defense looks good enough to win a World Cup if we could hop into a DeLorean and travel back to 2006. In 2012, they were painfully slow to close down service, and Father Time probably isn’t planning on doing them any favors this offseason. Getting Nelson Rivas, who is at least close to his prime, into tip-top shape for 30 games could go a long way to closing the gaps that plagued this team nearly the entire year.
Elsewhere, the issue is simple: Montreal have to figure out how to generate more offense from the wings, especially if Di Vaio ain’t gonna finish his looks. Davy Arnaud and Justin Mapp – “Marsch’s guys” – just didn’t cut it in 2012. Sanna Nyassi was mostly good, but it’s unclear if he’s won the confidence of the new (incoming?) regime. Andrew Wenger, the aforementioned No. 1 draft pick, looked lost when he played out wide.
It all actually feels quite a bit like an expansion season. Nobody’s sure of anything, yet expectations are still high. The question at Stade Saputo for 2013 is “How long will that last?”