Roster decisions loom for Montreal after narrowly missing playoffs

Remi Garde - close-up

MONTREAL ­— After going through a complete makeover this season, the Montreal Impact have a few items remaining on their wish list with an eye on a brighter future.

Montreal coach Remi Garde and his staff fell just short of qualifying for the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs in their first season with a strong second-half effort after a near-disastrous start that saw them lose 10 of their first 13 games.

On Monday the club announced it had mutually agreed to part ways with technical director Adam Braz, a decision that will no doubt have ramifications on the roster in the near and long term.

French veterans Bacary Sagna and Rod Fanni were brought in to bolster the re-made Impact roster that retained star midfielder Ignacio Piatti and goalkeeper Evan Bush.

Sagna, who played 10 seasons in the English Premier League with Arsenal and Manchester City, signed with Montreal through the end of the year on Aug. 8 with an option for 2019.

The 35-year-old right back played 90 minutes in each of his nine starts, scoring one goal.

“I want to stay here,” Sagna said when talking to reporters last week. “[Montreal] is a city I like and a club that I already love. I’m ready. I gave everything to give my best for the team, and I will in the future.”

Sagna thinks the Impact have the potential to become one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference next season after finishing in seventh place with 46 points, four points behind Philadelphia for the final playoff spot.

Improving on a 3-12-2 road record will be a priority.

“The team has a lot of quality and we need more confidence because we cannot lose so many games away from home,” Sagna said. “And that’s where we will have to improve next season. We have the right mentality during training sessions and during the [home] games, but we need to transplant this into the games whenever we play away. We need to be more confident because we can be a really good team.”

Fanni, a veteran of 15 seasons in France’s Ligue 1, signed on March 5 through June 30 after Zakaria Diallo suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon just before the start of the season.

The 36-year-old center back, whose contract was extended on July 4 and has an option for 2019, also expressed his desire to extend his adventure with the Impact.

“All the group feels the same thing. That’s why I think it’s good to continue with the same group,” Fanni said. “For me, even though we made a lot of progress, it remains a disappointment because I think we were capable of doing better. So it remains unfinished.”

Garde is targeting a midfielder and a striker at the top of his list to improve Montreal’s lineup. He was pleased and even relieved to see that Fanni and Sagna enjoyed their initial MLS experience with the Impact, and hopeful that they can help in recruiting efforts.

“We have seen how word of mouth between athletes can be important arguments,” Garde said. “We saw that with Bacary, the last to arrive, so yes I hope they will promote the Impact if I need them to.”

Bush had 10 shutouts and led MLS goalkeepers with 132 saves. One of three goalkeepers to start all 34 games, the 32-year-old native of Concord Township, Ohio, confirmed that contract negotiations began with the team late in the season.

“I’ve been here eight years and during that time I’ve never had more than one year of security, it’s always been an option year,” Bush said. “So those are the types of things that, looking back, it adds a little bit more stress to the family side of things, not always knowing what your future holds. And it could hold something else in three months anyway. Even if I sign an eight-year contract they could trade me in three months.

“So some of those things are out of your hands, but just to have a little bit of peace of mind and security, it’s kind of weighing all those conditions together. And whether I’m going to be here or not, I don’t know if it’s necessarily something I can determine right now because a lot of those things aren’t even in my control, to be honest.”