MLSsoccer.com is previewing each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2011 and ending with the league's newest addition, the Montreal Impact. This is part one of two previewing Montreal's 2012 season. You can find Part 2 here.
Setting the Scene
Andrew Wenger ready for rookie year
The Montreal Impact were already a 19-year-old club when they began their final season as a minor-league team last April, in anticipation of the big jump to MLS. But what was supposed to be a scintillating send-off ended up becoming one of the club’s most forgettable seasons ever results-wise, which had the supporters paying more attention to what happened off the field than on it.
Needless to say, the roster has been fully revamped. Of all the players who, at some point last season, had been members of the Impact, only six made the jump to MLS. They are joined by a solid mix of veterans and young guns looking to establish themselves in this league.
Head coach Jesse Marsch has been vocal about his intentions to build a competitive team right away, and there is no denying he has mostly been creative and astute on the transfer market – though, understandably, the Brian Ching saga grabbed a lot of headlines. The Montreal boss is nonetheless ready to start his first gig as head coach with a bang.
In and Out
IN: D Nelson Rivas (10/3: free/Inter Milan, Italy); D Hassoun Camara (10/11: NASL Montreal Impact); G Evan Bush (10/21: NASL Montreal Impact); M Sinisa Ubiparipovic (11/1: NASL Montreal Impact); D Jeb Brovsky (11/23: expansion draft); D Bobby Burling (11/23: expansion draft); D Josh Gardner (11/23: expansion draft); M Justin Mapp (11/23: expansion draft); F Sanna Nyassi (11/23: expansion draft); D James Riley (11/23: expansion draft); D Seth Sinovic (11/23: expansion draft); D Zarek Valentin (11/23: expansion draft); M Collen Warner (11/23: expansion draft); F Justin Braun (11/23: trade from Chivas USA); D Tyson Wahl (11/23: trade from Seattle); M Gerson Mayen (11/23: trade from Chivas USA); M Bryan Arguez (11/25: free/Fort Lauderdale Strikers); M Davy Arnaud (11/28: trade from Kansas City); G Donovan Ricketts (11/28: trade from Los Angeles); M Ian Westlake (12/5: NASL Impact); F Miguel Montano (12/7: free/Seattle Sounders); G Greg Sutton (12/9: free/New York Red Bulls); M Patrice Bernier (12/19: free/Lyngby, Denmark); M Felipe (12/21: free/FC Lugano, Switzerland); D/F Andrew Wenger (1/12: SuperDraft); M Calum Mallace (1/12: SuperDraft); F Evan James (1/17: supplemental draft); F Aaron Schoenfeld (1/17: supplemental draft); F Steven Miller (1/17: supplemental draft); F Carl Haworth (1/17: supplemental draft);D Gienir Garcia (1/17: trade from Vancouver); D Shavar Thomas (1/20: free/Sporting Kansas City); F Eddie Johnson (2/17: allocation); F Mike Fucito (2/17: trade from Seattle); M Lamar Neagle (2/17: trade from Seattle); F Eduardo Sebrango (2/21: NASL Montreal Impact); D Matteo Ferrari (3/1: free/Besiktas, Turkey)
OUT: D James Riley (11/23: trade to Chivas USA); D Seth Sinovic (11/28: trade to Kansas City); F Brian Ching (2/16: trade to Houston); F Eddie Johnson (2/17: trade to Seattle); M Ian Westlake (2/27: waived) M Gerson Mayen (3/1: waived)
COACHING STAFF IN: head coach Jesse Marsch; assistant coaches Mauro Biello, Denis Hamlett and Mike Sorber; goalkeeping coach Preston Burpo; physical preparation coach Adam Rotchstein
Star Attraction: Patrice Bernier
He has never played in MLS, yet all eyes will be on the suburban Montreal native, whose second coming to the Montreal Impact had long been awaited. Fresh off an eight-season stint in Europe, the Canadian international is ready to make his experience and leadership count with his new team. Bernier will not score countless goals this season, but his composed approach to the game will help him dictate his hometown club’s play.
Unsung Hero: Tyson Wahl
2012 MLS First Kick: Vancouver vs Montreal
With defender Nelson Rivas — who has earned the nickname "Tyson" after the former boxing legend — out injured, a namesake sensed his opportunity. Though primarily a left back, center back is what Tyson Wahl will probably be calling home come First Kick. His willingness to adapt, his athletic qualities and his work rate will turn the 28-year-old defender into more and more of an asset as the season goes along.
Ready for Primetime: Justin Braun
Marsch is among those who believe it is time for the 24-year-old striker to establish himself as a top attacker in Major League Soccer. Braun, who is widely expected to start most games this season up front for Montreal, has displayed a very good work ethic during preseason and scored a delightful lob against Estudiantes Tecos in Mexico. The Impact will hope his goal tally hits double figures this term.
Storylines to Watch
1. Will the team jell in time? Montreal’s last Disney Pro Soccer Classic outing was impressive: The pressing was sustained and the movement clever. Marsch will need the effort to be that high every week if his team is to avoid the typical MLS expansion season.
2. Who will be the DP? Impact owner Joey Saputo has strongly hinted at the signing of a difference-making Designated Player this summer. The supporters cannot wait for the mystery to be solved.
3. Will Andrew Wenger get good marks? The No. 1 pick at the 2012 MLS SuperDraft will carry on studying at Duke University and will not be in Montreal full time until May. How will that affect the beginning of his MLS career?
What He Said
“There’s a lot of buzz, and people are interested in discovering the premier soccer league in North America. We’re a brand new franchise and patience will be needed, but our preseason efforts shall lead us to a great new beginning.”
– Midfielder Patrice Bernier (pictured right at his introductory press conference) on the Impact’s first MLS season
If Everything Goes Right
However one might try and foresee what will happen with the Montreal Impact this season, one thing keeps coming back to mind: This is an expansion team. While the club has put a lot of effort into trying to become one of the very few MLS expansion teams to make the playoffs, it still seems the Impact will struggle to achieve this objective. More likely, Montreal will have scattered bright spots in a season struggling to adapt to the top flight.
Should the DP Saputo has in mind turn the season into a thrilling chase for an MLS Cup Playoffs spot, Impact fans will probably feel it’s already mission accomplie.
WATCH: Marsch excited for expansion season in Montreal