The Montreal Impact’s expansion season in Major League Soccer came to a disappointing end on Saturday at Saputo Stadium, as a late goal from A.J Soares helped the New England Revolution to a 1-0 win.
In the post-game press conference following the loss, Impact coach Jesse Marsch wasn’t ready to give a full assessment of his side’s season or say if he was satisfied with the results that the team accumulated throughout the year.
But certainly, deep down, he expected more. He had hoped the Impact would be able to make the playoffs right away.
The Impact didn’t qualify for the post-season, but they did, however, make tremendous headway throughout the year. The team that started against the Revs on Saturday was a far cry from the one that took on the Vancouver Whitecaps last March in the inaugural game, and not just in terms of personnel, but also in the overall style and quality of play.
The team is definitely a lot better now than it was at the start of the campaign.
But as the Impact have shown in recent weeks, there’s still a lingering fragility in defence and a lack of punch going forward, too. And so changes will need to be made.
Though a good base has been formed, it’s the signings and roster decisions in the forthcoming weeks that will ultimately determine whether or not the Impact will be a veritable playoff contender next year or not.
Players such as Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Josh Gardner, Shavar Thomas, Evan James, Dennis Iapichino, Bryan Arguez and Miguel Montao will all most likely be shown the door or be sent on loan before the start of next season.
Some players will likely retire from the game altogether. Greg Sutton has already done so, while Eddy Sebrango and Bernardo Corradi will likely follow suit.
The really big decisions will be whether or not to keep veteran players such as captain Davy Arnaud and Justin Mapp who haven’t at all lived up their hefty price tags this season and who probably aren’t going to get any better.
Goalkeeper Troy Perkins has done well since he joined the Impact from the Portland Timbers in August, but whether he stays in Montreal or not is yet another question mark. The Impact think very highly of backup ‘keeper Evan Bush, who would also be a significantly cheaper option.
Marsch probably already has a good idea of who is in his plans for next year and who is not, and next week’s post-season training camp in Italy will probably shed some light on what’s on his mind, as some players will be left behind in Montreal.
Marsch did confirm with the media on Saturday that the club will bring some academy players with the team to Italy. Wandrille Lefevre, who has finished his time with the academy, will likely be one of the players on the trip. The French midfielder has been training with the Impact’s first team over the last few weeks in the hope of getting a professional contract.
With the rise of Calum Mallace in the first team, however, it might be difficult for Lefevre to find a spot, but the great desire and fight that he’s shown in training does work a bit in his favour, because those are qualities Marsch really likes to see in his players.
If the Impact part ways with Perkins there will be some vacancies to fill at the ‘keeper position and signing the highly rated academy star Maxime Crepeau to a professional contract next year could be a possibility, especially with potential interest from Europe.
In the next few weeks and months, the Impact will be very active in the transfer market as they look to build on the success they’ve had this season and try to get into the playoffs next year.
Now that the team’s expansion tag has expired, the pressure to put out a winning team is really on for good.
Nick Sabetti is a Montreal-based writer who covers the Montreal Impact for Goal.com. Follow Nick on Twitter.