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Impact look to shake up the MLS landscape

by The Concordian October 13, 2015
Impact look to shake up the MLS landscape

Montreal soccer is back in the forefront under Mauro Biello

After assuming the reigns from Frank Klopas, Mauro Biello has managed revitalize the Montreal Impact resulting in the team’s newfound a playoff position.

Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

In the first six games of Biello’s tenure, the Impact went undefeated, winning four games and drawing two. At the moment, the Impact sit in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, four points ahead of Orlando City SC with only two games left to the season. With games against the New England Revolution and fierce rivals Toronto FC coming up, the end of the season promises to be an exciting one.

This season, the Impact have yet to beat Toronto but have enjoyed success against the Revolution,  recently beating them with a score of 3-0. With the help of their newly-arrived superstar Didier Drogba, the Impact will look to make a deep run into the post-season. In Drogba’s first seven starts with Montreal, the former Chelsea man scored nine goals and notched one assist. The former Chelsea striker’s recent form earned him the MLS’s Etihad Airways player of the month award for September, finishing ahead of Seattle Sounders forward Obafemi Martins and Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco. “The designated players that [the Montreal Impact has] brought in have been impressive but Didier is of a different breed. His winning mentality is infectious,” said Grant Needham, a former Impact player and the current voice of the Montreal Impact on TSN690 and CJAD. Prior to making the move to the MLS, Drogba won the English Premier League four times and won the UEFA Champions League once as a member of the world-renowned Chelsea FC. With his collection experience and skill, it’s understandable why fan optimism surrounding the team is at an all-time high.

Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

Martin Binette, a season-ticket holder and passionate fan of the team for years, said that with “King Drogba” leading the line, the Impact can surprise many teams in the post-season and perhaps go all the way. The contrasting coaching methods employed by Klopas and Biello are all too evident. “From what I’ve seen and heard, Biello has been putting emphasis on communication which was really lacking during the Klopas era,” said Binette. Biello’s desire to communicate with his players has been a refreshing change for the club and has helped in their recent upturn.

Despite his success as a player with Montreal, many were skeptical about Biello’s appointment as it wouldn’t have been the first time a former player failed to make a good manager. Jason Di Tullio, the current assistant coach of the Montreal Impact, said he knew it was the right moment for Biello to assume first-team responsibilities. “It was time for Mauro to take over a team with quality players. He is a big part of the club’s history. Therefore it’s easy for him to show the players just how important it is to play for the Impact,” said Di Tullio. Given the Impact’s congested schedule, it was going to be difficult for Biello to bring new ideas to the team. As a result, a lot of his success depends on his ability to get the best out of his players in the moment. Until now he has had his team performing well but a better understanding of this strategy will be revealed after the Impact’s upcoming games. “Under him the team is playing with more confidence as he brings a calming effect. He is changing his tactics as each game warrants,” said Needham.

One issue has continued to manifest itself for the Impact under Biello. In the Impact’s last six games, they have picked up four red cards. Most recently, it cost them the three points against the Eastern Conference leaders New York Red Bulls. “It’s been a problem all year. It stems from players playing with a lot of emotion and decision-making in the moment. We are aware that we can’t be successful finishing games with a man down,” said Di Tullio. In tight games, the Impact cannot afford to make such mistakes.

If the Impact is able to eradicate these lapses of concentration, they will prove to be a tricky customer for anyone in the post-season. “Winning a championship is the ultimate goal for us. In the short term, our goal is to make the post-season and demonstrate progress,” Di Tullio said.  This would mark the Impact’s second-ever playoff appearance after they made their debut in 2013 when they lost to the Houston Dynamo.

Needham said it is imperative that Montreal win a playoff game in order to host a home playoff game. “For Montreal, making the post-season is not enough. Ask the guys and they think winning it all is not out of the question. Drogba effect? Maybe,” said Needham.

Earlier in the year the Impact demonstrated their ability to get hot when it mattered and made a deep run into the CONCACAF Champions League. Montreal eventually fell short and lost in the final to Mexican outfit Club America.

In the past, Montrealers have shown their desire to get behind a winning team, as seen through the Montreal Canadiens’ playoff runs. If the team manages to get a home game this post-season, expect Saputo Stadium to be buzzing with excitement. With the support of an entire city behind them and their new-found belief, the Impact might just be this year’s surprise package in Major League Soccer.

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