It took less than three months until the Montreal Impact’s 2018 season looked all but finished.
After showing some early signs of life under first-year head coach Remi Garde in March, Montreal seemed to capitulate as injuries and poor form took their toll in a dreadful April and May. A 2-0 loss at Minnesota on May 26 was the nadir. The defeat put a depressing end to a 1-8-0 stretch, dropped the club to 3-10-0 on the season and prompted Garde to publicly bemoan his team’s lack of talent. In Montreal and around MLS, the Impact were essentially written off.
Not even two months later, and things feel much different. The Impact are 6-2-0 since that loss in the Twin Cities. They’ve won five of their last six league matches, with their 2-0 home victory against San Jose on Saturday keeping them in sixth in the East, just one point behind fifth-place New England and only three back of fourth-place Columbus.
Their victories haven’t come against the most daunting opponents, but Montreal are healthier, have built a tough, defensive identity, are getting better individual performances from some of their more important players and are firmly in the thick of the playoff race. Now, with the summer transfer window in full swing, they’re looking to further bolster their squad.
“I think guys stepped up to the plate. I think players looked at the situation and weren’t happy about where we were in the standings and probably took Remi’s comments on board and stepped up,” Impact technical director Adam Braz told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “Individual performances have been better, guys have been playing to their potential. Now, in this window, it’s about trying to strengthen and reinforce the squad and try to give a boost to the players we have to be able to try to really fight and try to get into the playoffs.”
Braz and Montreal made their first move of the window on Tuesday, when they announced that they'd traded winger/wingback Raheem Edwards to Chicago in exchange for $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money. They also added to their Homegrown Player crop with the signing of Mathieu Choiniere.
They also have an open Designated Player spot, three senior roster spots available and financial flexibility, but, as is the case with so many teams around MLS, they may be limited in what they can do this transfer window by their lack of international slots. The Impact have zero open international slots and none of their nine internationals are likely candidates for season-long loans to USL, meaning they’d likely have to waive, trade or move a player abroad to sign another international this transfer window.
The lack of an international slot would be a hurdle if the Impact want to bring in a third Designated Player this window, but Braz wouldn’t rule it out. The money acquired in the Edwards' deal will give them plenty of room to acquire a TAM-level player, as well.
“I wouldn’t rule out using that third DP spot,” said Braz. “I’m not saying we are going to use it, but I wouldn’t rule it out.”
Braz declined to name any specific positions the Impact are targeting, but a source said that the club are in the market for a striker. Montreal have shored things up in the back in a big way during their hot streak, conceding just six goals and keeping five shutouts in their last eight matches after allowing 29 goals in their first 13 games. Their strikers, meanwhile, continue to struggle, with Matteo Mancosu and Anthony Jackson-Hamel combining for just three goals in 27 total appearances this year.
“We’re definitely looking to add for sure,” said Braz. “We’re looking within the league at moves that are available to see if it makes sense and we’re also looking at the international market in terms of players that could be available that make sense. Of course, within that, we obviously need to make sure that we can fit those pieces within the salary cap and within the flexibility that we have whether it’s with GAM or TAM and the international spots. But that’s part and parcel of trying to fit the pieces into the puzzle.”