After last week's stoppage-time loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, Orlando City is once again preparing to face another Canadian foe, the Eastern Conference's Montreal Impact. So, as always The Mane Land has you covered with everything that you need to know about our next opponent.
The Montreal Impact were the last expansion team prior to Orlando City and New York City FC to enter Major League Soccer. Montreal was also the last expansion team from the NASL and currently only two of the players that played for Montreal in their final and only NASL season are still on the roster -- Hassoun Camara and Evan Bush. Montreal had moderate success in the USL winning their conference championship eight times and the overall championship three times in 18 seasons.
The Impact went into the off-season having finished last in the Eastern Conference as well as at the bottom of the league overall. Their poor showing in 2014 meant that a lot of their core squad departed for other opportunities, such as Felipe Martins (New York Red Bulls), Sanna Nyassi (San Jose Earthquakes), Andrew Wenger (Philadelphia Union) and Jeb Brovsky (New York City FC). They also lost their talisman and franchise top scorer Marco Di Vaio, to retirement.
Replacements that came in during the off-season were Generation Adidas draft pick and UCF graduate Romario Williams, Belgian international Laurent Ciman, Premier League and MLS veteran Nigel Reo-Coker, and Serie A veteran Marco Donadel, as well as the promising talent of Cameron Porter. The team also managed to retain the services of midfielder Justin Mapp and Patrice Bernier.
The Season So Far
Despite the number of good acquisitions in the off-season, Montreal's 2015 MLS season has not gotten off to the best of starts. In the first game of the season, they came up against 2014 Eastern Conference champions, D.C. United. The game wasn't anything special, with running out 1-0 winners, however, the writing was probably on the wall for Montreal's season after the 81st minute, when midfielder Mapp went down injured and is expected to miss at least four months, after dislocating and fracturing his left elbow.
Montreal's second game of the MLS season went a little better but only just. They didn't lose. They were able to hold the also-struggling (really missing Jermaine Jones) New England Revolution to a 0-0 draw. Both teams were uninspiring and lacked any real offensive bite. This was especially true for the Impact, who lost their lone striker, and revelation of the season so far, Cameron Porter in the 20th minute to what could be a season-ending knee ligament injury.
The game got even worse for Montreal in the 60th minute, when they lost defender Hassoun Camara to a second yellow card, therefore Camara will miss the game against Orlando. The only bright side, like I said, was they didn't lose and managed to get their first point of the season.
The only real bright side for Montreal this season has been their run in the CONCACAF Champions League, where they currently hold a 2-0 lead over Costa Rican side Alajuelense in the tournament semifinal, prior to making the away trip return leg. The Impact have played some of their best football this season in this competition, however MLS sides notoriously don't fare well in away legs in Champions League play. And now, with them missing some of their best players, things aren't looking so good for Montreal to progress to the final.
Player to Watch
So, after all that, my player to watch this week was going to be Laurent Ciman. The Belgian international has been playing very well in the Montreal back line. However, just like Orlando City, Montreal will be losing some players to international duty, and Ciman just happens to be one of their three. (Check out my piece from Sunday about international call-ups.) My next player was going to be Cameron Porter, however, after his injury, his season is all but over. But don't fear, Montreal still has one player that Orlando City fans should watch out for and that is Dominic Oduro.
Oduro has been in MLS since 2006, and Montreal is his seventh MLS team. However, he doesn't get traded due to his lack of talent. I think it's mainly because of his trademark -- constantly changing hair color. Oduro has racked up 48 goals and 26 assists during his time in MLS and his play even got him called up to play for Ghana in a friendly. Oduro has been making some excellent runs and really helps widen Montreal's style of play, so our wingbacks will have to be on their best game to make sure that they keep up with him.
And that's it, folks. A lot has happened to Montreal so far this season and hopefully that gives you some insight into who Kaká and Orlando City will be facing when they step on the field at Olympic Stadium on Saturday.