The Montreal Impact’s season ended at the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in a heartbreaking extra time loss to bitter rivals Toronto FC. A late season surge, and tremendous playoff push without Didier Drogba give hope for the future. Let’s look at how the season went.
2016 Montreal Impact Season Review
Montreal looked ready to tear into 2016 projected as one of the strongest teams in MLS. Drogba’s 11 game, 11 goal first campaign coupled with the addition of Harry Shipp poised the Impact to be an offensive juggernaut on the counter.
The center back pairing of Laurent Ciman and Victor Cabrera were crucial to building what is arguably the best counter attacking squad in MLS. The pair did so well in 2015 that Ciman, who is the feature, won MLS Defender of the Year.
Despite all the hype, injuries and lackluster performances saw Montreal fighting to stay above the red line rather than setting the pace in the Eastern Conference. With Drogba missing games and the defense struggling, Montreal was unable to exploit opponents as they were expected to.
What Went Right
Although Montreal came up just short of their overall goal, the end of the season cannot be considered anything less than a success. Mauro Biello took a lineup that was constantly in flux and put together one cohesive group to charge through the playoffs. Despite the disappointing end, Montreal has a core that should be primed for 2017.
Montreal made two key transfers in July that really saved the season. The most notable signing being the acquisition of Matteo Mancosu on loan from Bologna. The 31 year old Italian forward was a crucial piece of the late season run as a replacement for Drogba and Dominic Oduro at center forward. Hernan Bernardello was signed in July and played in 12 of the reaming 15 games in 2016 and started every playoff game. The Argentine midfielder earned his keep locking down the midfield and shielding the somewhat shaky defense.
What Went Wrong
For as good as Montreal were on the transfer market, they had their share of lackluster signings. Lucas Ontivero and Harry Shipp were lauded as marquee signings, but neither were able to lock a position in the starting XI consistently.
Montreal was plagued all season by lackluster individual performances and lineup changes. With Marco Donadel missing time, Bernier’s minutes being limited, and Andres Romero out for the season, Montreal was forced to find a midfield trio on the fly.
Injuries to Donny Toia and Victor Cabrera really hampered the defense at different points in the season. Toia eventually lost his starting spot to Ambroise Oyongo. Cabrera’s injuries broke up the center back pairing between him and Laurent Ciman and allowed opponents an easier time in the attack.
Too many draws sank Montreal in the Eastern Conference standings. Whether it was scoring too few goals or allowing that late equalizer, Montreal dropped points enough time to knock them down to a wild card road game.
Off Season Plans
The first major move for the Impact offseason is to complete the full transfer of Matteo Mancosu. He is currently on loan until midseason.
Re-signing Oduro should be a top priority in the 2017 MLS Free Agent class. His six goal, six assist season have gathered the attention of other clubs, so a backup plan to get a suitable winger for the 4-3-3 should also be on the radar.
Defensive depth was a bit of a rough spot in 2016. Losing Donny Toia in the Expansion Draft was not ideal, but Montreal managed to get Minnesota’s Expansion Draft pick Chris Duvall, formerly with New York Red Bulls, and general allocation money in exchange for Johan Venegas. This is a decent start to solidifying the back half of the roster.
Thankfully, Montreal is looking almost exclusively for role players which keeps the pressure off, but another blockbuster signing wouldn’t do any harm.