There was plenty of talk about the LA Galaxy and Orlando City as they overhauled their rosters ahead of the 2018 season. North of the border, however, the Montreal Impact have quietly put together one of the league’s biggest top-to-bottom rebuilds.
The Impact hired a new coach, Remi Garde, in November. Since then they’ve bid adieu to 13 players permanently and sent three others away on loan. They’ve also added 13 different players ranging from three Homegrowns, to Designated Player Saphir Taider and, most recently, winger Alejandro Silva on a TAM contract on a transfer from Lanus in Argentina.
And there’s more to come.
Montreal have three open spots on their senior roster, including one open DP slot. While a third DP may not be imminent, the Impact have plenty of budget space to work with.
“That [DP] is not necessarily one we’re looking to do right now, but we also have TAM available to use and quite a bit of General Allocation Money,” Montreal technical director Adam Braz told MLSsoccer.com ahead of the Silva signing. “We’ve put ourselves in a good position in terms of the salary cap and what we can do, and now it’s making sure on the recruitment side we target the right players and Remi is clear in terms of who he wants and getting those deals done.”
Silva adds an attacking piece that gives Montreal better balance through their front line on the opposite side of midfield from Ignacio Piatti. The 28-year-old Uruguayan had three goals and two assists in 13 appearances with Lanus so far this season. He’s expected to slot into the starting lineup immediately.
With the Silva addition finalized, a source confirmed the Impact are next set to sign center back Rudy Camacho. The 27-year-old center back would be yet another addition to a backline that has been almost completely overhauled this offseason.
Camacho will join Montreal from Waasland-Beveren in the Belgian league and joins a defense that has already brought in Rod Fanni, Jukka Raitala and Michael Petrasso this year. Montreal also signed Ligue 2 defender Zakaria Diallo before losing the French-Senagalese center back to a season-ending Achilles injury just before the season started.
“Remi came in and obviously analyzed the squad that was here at the end of last season and identified some of the deficiencies,” Braz said. “There’s no hiding the fact that the team gave up too many goals last year. We gave up 58 goals, and [fixing the defense] was certainly an emphasis. … Remi identified different players he wanted to add and we were able to go out and add them. It’s definitely been a point of emphasis in terms of training and how the team is set up in order to be much more compact and organized defensively, having a tight defensive block and reducing the number of goals we concede.”
Braz said the organization went into the offseason looking to give itself as much cap flexibility as possible. Montreal traded two MLS SuperDraft picks for $200,000 in GAM and $150,000 in TAM. They also collected a decent chunk of GAM for the sale of young star Ballou Tabla to Barcelona B.
That allowed Montreal to be aggressive in the international market as they looked to strengthen their squad under Garde. Montreal also added a few younger players to its squad within the domestic market, including trading for former Toronto FC defender Raheem Edwards after LAFC selected him in the Expansion Draft and selecting Michigan State midfielder Ken Krolicki in the third round of the SuperDraft. Both have started games this season.
Garde and his staff have “embraced the challenge and they’ve embraced the club and also the league and all the different nuances that are involved with the league,” Braz said. “It’s been very good and positive and a lot of hard work was put in during the preseason both on the field and off the field in terms of them building the group and the mentality to try to have a strong season.”
It’s early in the season, but it’s clear that the Impact have been remade in Garde’s image and the hope is the results start to come as the team jells. A 1-0 win over Toronto on the weekend gave Garde his first points as a coach in MLS, and with new additions still rolling in, Montreal may be able to close the gap with the top four teams in the East.