Sounders v Montreal Impact - Three Questions

From HGP to First Kick starter? It is likely. - Jane G Photography

With all the Obafemi Martins news you may have forgotten that on Saturday at 7:30 PM the season starts in earnest with a match against the Montreal Impact. Prepare yourself through Three Questions with our at frère Mt Royal Soccer.

There were a lot of changes up in Montreal this year. New coach, fewer former Sounders, and many more old Italians. It is a team that did well for their expansion season. Their biggest struggles were on the road - which bodes well for Seattle Sounders FC as the Impact come here to open the season and start their quest for Canada's second ever MLS Playoff spot.

Mount Royal Soccer sees the Montreal Impact's biggest challenge on the season as their depth. Here is round one of Three Questions as Giovanni guides us through Coach Marco Schällibaum's team.

SaH: With the age on Montreal's roster are they likely to give up goals late in the game as they tire?

MtRS: In 2012, one of the Impact's main problems was their fitness level in the last 15 minutes of games. They simply ran out of gas and it ended up costing them a playoff spot. The fatigue really destroyed their communication, pace and control. In the off season, the organization let go of trainer Adam Rochtstein and brought in the no non-sense Paolo Pacione. The difference, so far has been night and day. Pacione has been like a drill sargeant since day one. He's taken no prisoners. He isn't afraid to call out any player on the roster. I don't think this will be an issue this year.

SaH: What is the biggest tactical change in the coaching switch?

MtRS: This season, the Impact will focus will on short passes, creating passing lanes and lots of movement off the ball to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Last season, especially late in games, the players were too static and made it easy for the opponent to create turnovers and neutralize Montreal's forwards. A more disciplined style of play will take pressure off the Impact defenders and will lead to Marco Di Vaio being one of the league's top scorers.

SaH: Montreal was weak on the road last year. What has changed to help that this season?

MtRS: The biggest change is Coach Marco Schällibaum. Last year, Marsch's game plan on the road was simply too defensive. Add-in their late game fitness issues, allowing the opponent to constantly attack often led to the keeper fishing the ball out of the back of the net. Coach Marco will probably implement a more attacking style of play. The Impact need to be more aggressive, not sit back on a lead and continue putting pressure on the opponent's defense. They also need to take the crowd out of the game. When playing on the road in cities like Seattle and Portland, you MUST go on the offensive or those 90 minutes will feel like 900 minutes.

Starting XI

Andrea Pisanu - Felipe - Justin Mapp
Marco Di Vaio

REVERSE


MtRS: Jeff Parke (D) & Fredy Montero (F) are no longer with the team. Any particular reason for their departure? Will their presence be missed? How so?


SaH: Parke left so that he could be closer to his family. With his first child he decided it was time to return home. Montero's reasons are more soccer related. His desire to play in a top European league meant that he needed a new showcase. His current team is in Copa Libertadores and he may have a better chance to make the Colombian National Team which would help his chances at a large payday. He is only on loan, and his contract was extended so he could be back in Seattle for 2014 and longer.

Replacing the best defender cost Seattle depth on the backline. They did bring in Djimi Traore, but it is unlikely that he can play at Parke's level. Seattle's forward core lacks even more depth if you look only at "forwards," but there are several attacking midfielders who can slot up until the next DP is brought to the squad. That could be any moment now as they pursue Obafemi Martins.

MtRS: Shalrie Joseph (M) was brought in via trade. What responsability/role will Joseph have?


SaH: The former All Star will eventually be getting the most minutes as a central midfielder. He will also get some time at forward and maybe even as a centerback. The Sounders are gambling that he will be more like his 2011 self (a really good player) and that 2012 was about where he played and not his post-peak age. He is almost certainly out for this match as he is both lacking fitness and has a minor calf strain.

MtRS: Expectations are high in Seattle. Is it MLS Cup or bust for Sigi Schmid? Who will be the key contributors to the Sounders success this year?


SaH: No, Seattle isn't rash enough to can a coach just because he doesn't get hot in November. It will take much more than that to cause his fall. Still, there is a lot of pressure and they clearly made changes to the roster to try something new and different rather than relatively static tactics of the past few years.

Eddie Johnson, Michael Gspurning, Osvaldo Alonso and Mauro Rosales will all be good to great again. The bigger question is how good will Steve Zakuani, Mario Martinez and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado be? Each is capable of being a difference maker. Each can also go silent for many matches. Those last three will determine if Seattle has a huge season or just a good one.

MtRS: BONUS: The Sounders acquired Lamar Neagle back from the Montreal Impact during the off season. What is his role with the team?


SaH: He is one of the attacking midfielders who will get some time at forward. He's a depth player in both roles, but he will still get time. Neagle's playing style is the most Zakuani-like of the players on the bench. That should mean he is in the 18 to come on and add goals via route one.

PREDICTED FORMATION/STARTING XI: 442

Estrada

Johnson

Zakuani

Rosales

Evans

Gonzalez

Rose

Yedlin

Hurtado

Scott

Gspurning



MtRS: Player the Impact needs to fear the most and why?


SaH: Eddie Johnson's last season was good, but his goal is to be more than an MLS player and a USMNT regular. His motivation this year will be even higher.



Final score prediction: 2-nil

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