In this week's intelligence report, it's time to get to know a little more about our second straight foes from the great white north, the Montreal Impact. Here to help us get ready for Saturday night is Jean-Francois Corbet from Mount Royal Soccer.
Who are three Montreal Impact players that Orlando City fans should know about?
Jean-Francois Corbet: The best player of the Montreal Impact is with no doubt Ignacio Nacho Piatti. He is a true force with the ball and can beat anyone with one move. He scored a beautiful goal in the first game in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. He did not play the last game because of funerals in Argentina, so I don't know yet if he will be there this weekend, but if he is, your defenders must be ready.
I will not speak about Laurent Ciman since he is a Belgian international and will not play this weekend, but he is great. Bakare Soumare is a solid defender. He plays central defense and is very physical and plays a very good head game also. The other player you have to look for is the young Callum Mallace. Since the second part of 2014, he is on a roll and playing with a lot of confidence in front of the defense. He is the one who made the beautiful long pass to Cameron Porter against Pachuca in the last minute. I expect him to start this weekend.
What is the team's preferred style of play and formation?
JFC: 4-2-3-1 is the style Frank Klopas uses this year. This is solid in the back with six players on the defensive side of the ball, but it is not as offensive as I want it to be. The Impact does not have a star striker in front. I've said many times that Jack McInerney is able to do the job up front, but it seems that the management does not think the same, since he did not start a game so far. We got a good mix of offensive midfielders with Piatti, Dilly Duka, Justin Mapp, Andrés Romero, Eric Alexander and even the young Maxim Tissot, who is used at that position but with just one striker in front, it's harder. It's tough to replace someone like Marco Di Vaio.
What have you learned about the Impact through the first few MLS games this season?
JFC: It will be better than last year! Not a hard statement, but it is true. The Impact are better in almost every aspect if we compared to last year. Better defense, better defensive midfield and offensive midfield. Even the bench players are better. The only place we are not as good is in front with no Di Vaio, but with Dominic Oduro and McInerney it can work, with time. I think they will try to get a DP during the summer transfer period. There are also players who love to play the game, like Ciman, Soumare and Nigel Reo-Coker, and the fans love players like that. I think they will battle for a playoff spot, with Orlando, but it will be close but no cigars for Montreal in 2015.
What are the major strengths and weaknesses of the team?
JFC: Like I've said, the team is way better this year defensively than last year. They won the first leg of the semis in the CCL, 2-0, against a team who completely destroyed D.C. United's defense. Also, players like Ciman, Soumare, Donny Toia and Victor Cabrera bring a whole other level from last year. There is no Heath Pearce playing center back or Krohl playing in the starting 11. The biggest weakness is in front. So far, there is no one who can replace Marco and Jack Mac is not playing at all. I think Klopas must give him some time because the Impact will need to score some goals to win some games, because so far it is 0 goals in two games this season.
What are the fans' expectations for the club, both realistic and unrealistic?
JFC: The fans want to forget 2014 as soon as possible and the win over Pachuca helps a lot to swallow the pills. If the team can manage to stay in a battle for a playoff spot until September, I think we will say mission accomplished! But, if they lost five or six in a row to start the season, the mood will be like last year, with a lot of empty seats at Saputo's. After the 2-0 win in the semis this week, they are also talking about a possible win in CONCACAF Champions League and go on to face some big European team like Real Madrid or Bayern Munich at the FIFA Club World Cup. It can help to save the season if 2015 is a disaster in MLS.
What do you expect the starting XI to look like on Saturday?
JFC: Evan Bush, Donny Toia, Victor Cabrera, Bakary Soumare, Eric Miller, Nigel Reo-Coker, Callum Mallace, Ignacio Piatti, Dilly Duka, Eric Alexander, Jack McInerney.
We will see some playing time for the captain Patrice Bernier but not a start.
I also predict a win for Montreal 2-1 --both goals from Jack Mac! I'm a lot optimistic here but if Jack does not score on a regular basis this year...I don't know who will!
Big thanks to Jean-Francois for helping us get to know more about our new foes.