Author: Andrew Wiebe | Cover illustration by Duane Tomaszewski
The Impact rode a devastating counterattack led by Ignacio Piatti, Matteo Mancosu and Dominic Oduro to get within minutes of an MLS Cup berth before archrivals Toronto FC stomped on their hearts in extra time of the Eastern Conference Championship. Can Montreal get back to those heights in 2017? Perhaps, but it'll take another MVP-caliber season from Piatti, a Fountain of Youth for the aging (but classy) midfield and an improved defensive effort from a largely unchanged backline.
Key Offseason Transactions
|KEY PLAYERS IN:||KEY PLAYERS OUT:|
|Blerim Dzemaili (M)|
Chris Duvall (D)
Adrian Arregui (M) All transactions
|Didier Drogba (F)|
Johan Venegas (M/F)
Donny Toia (D)
Harry Shipp (M)
Player to watch: Ignacio Piatti
When Piatti gets the ball in space and isolates a defender, don't avert your eyes – something special is about to happen. The Argentine made a habit of embarrassing opposing fullbacks in 2016, scoring 17 goals (plus four more in the playoffs) and finishing fifth in the Landon Donovan MVP voting while establishing himself as one of (if not the) best 1-v-1 players in MLS.
Now comes the hard part: matching or exceeding what he did last year, goals and assists that the Impact will need in order to make another deep run.
How they'll play
HEAD COACH - Mauro Biello
On the break. Biello told ExtraTime Radio earlier this offseason that he hopes the Impact won't be so reliant on bunker-and-break tactics in 2017, but there's no practical reason to abandon the formula that best fits the personnel. If it ain't broke, why fix it?
Projected Starting XI
4-3-3, right to left: Evan Bush (GK) — Hassoun Camara (RB), Victor Cabrera (CB), Laurent Ciman (CB), Ambroise Oyongo (LB) — Marco Donadel (DM), Hernan Bernadello (CM), Patrice Bernier (CM) — Dominic Oduro (F), Matteo Mancosu (F), Ignacio Piatti (F)
5th in Eastern Conference. Same as last year, a task which promises to be considerably more difficult this time around in a rough-and-tumble (and improved) Eastern Conference that now includes free-spending Atlanta United. If Mancosu can't replicate the form that relegated Didier Drogba to the bench, the backline continues to struggle with physical forwards and Piatti and Oduro fail to match 2016's career-best production, it's no stretch to say Montreal could be on the outside looking in come MLS Cup Playoff time.