FRIDAY NOVEMBER 24, 2017
 
Blog EGOS & ICONS
ASSESSING THE IMPACT
divaio_montreal-impact.jpg

Say what you will about the sustainability of their top stars, but it's tough to argue with the results the Montreal Impact are enjoying right now.

Midway through what's just their second season in Major League Soccer, the Impact sit atop the Eastern Conference standings with an impressive nine wins. They're right in the thick of the race for the Supporters' Shield, given to the team with the most regular season points, and well on their way to making their first playoff appearance.

They're also the reigning Canadian champions, hammering hapless Toronto in the semis before edging out Vancouver on away goals to win the final of this year's tournament. Among their MLS cousins on this side of the border, they're in a class by themselves.

What amounts to a bit of a wobble in Montreal's past two games would still be cause for celebration among fans of long-suffering rivals TFC. Last Saturday at Stade Saputo, in a wild and wooly affair with Colorado, the Impact blew a pair of second half leads before coughing up an injury time decider to lose 4-3, their first defeat in 10 home games this year. Then, on Wednesday, they went down the 401 to Ontario's capital and fell behind 3-1 in the first 25 minutes before bouncing back with two goals in two second-half minutes to salvage a 3-3 tie and break Toronto hearts again.

That six-goal outburst made Montreal the league's highest-scoring team, even though they'd still played at least one fewer match than any other contender. And more than a third of those goals belong to one man: Italian striker Marco Di Vaio, who's been outstanding in his first full season in MLS.

Still, Di Vaio is just days away from an even bigger number: his 37th birthday. Teammate and fellow Italian import Alessandro Nesta, who stars at the heart of the Impact defence, already turned 37 in March. And the roster is full of players who aren't quite so old but, it must be said, grew up in a world before iPods and cell phones were in every palm.

That aging core might mean Montreal's window of success is closer to porthole than panorama, but at least it's open. In Toronto, the window has been bricked over, and it’s got layers of broken glass on the ledge.

Some of the credit for the Impact's strong start must go to first-year coach Marco Schallibaum, a hot-tempered Swiss who has already racked up a string of tirades, ejections and suspensions. While he may not always play nice with opponents or referees, Schallibaum has won plaudits from his players for his motivational skills and passion. And he's wisely played to the strengths of his Italian-heavy lineup, favouring a direct approach going forward, looking to hit off the counter-attack and stressing stalwart defence.

They're off to a brilliant start, but there's no question the half of the season that still remains will test Montreal. It's a rigorous grind that also includes dates in the CONCACAF Champions League, and the daunting travel that comes with it. Don't count on Di Vaio and Nesta putting their bodies through cross-continental flights as long as league glory is still at stake.

Signing up high-priced foreign star power hasn't always worked in MLS, even if the Beckham Experiment bore fruit in its final few seasons in Los Angeles. But so far, it's working out well in Montreal, where a pair of well-aged Italians have the Impact dreaming about popping the cork on a big bottle of soccer success.

0 Comments | Add a Comment
POST YOUR COMMENTS
*Your Name:
*Enter code:
4fh2l
* Comment:
TORO FEATURED VIDEO