We've never seen the lovely Stade Saputo, since the Montreal Impact came into the league only last season, but it's our time to check it out this weekend as the Rapids face the Impact in Canada. Since we over here rarely see much of our Eastern Conference foes, I exchanged a few questions with Sofiane Benzaza of our Impact blog, Mount Royal Soccer.
You can check out my answers to his questions about our Rapids over here on his page, while his answers to mine are below:
BW: I don't recall anyone, even Montreal fans, predicting the meteoric rise that they took from last year to this year. What's the No. 1 reason that they've made such a quick improvement?
MRS: The positive momentum from 2012 has continued in 2013. Jesse Marsch needs to be credited for the work he has done but Marco Schallibaum took the club to the next level. Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta , the biggest names signed by the Montreal Impact, have finally had a complete pre-season while enjoying a full off-season to rest.
With an almost untouched core of players that has come back, the Impact had time to rest and re-focus for the 2013 MLS season. With lessons learned from past mistakes, the club has focused on using that same core with a new system, under a new head coach. Talented players are stepping up to the plate, especially Justin Mapp who is having an excellent season.
The Montreal Impact were not as bad as advertised in 2012, especially hating the ``Expansion`` tag. E was always for Evolution in 2012 and it shows in 2013.
Let`s not forget, the Impact has 20 years of soccer history and playing the game is nothing new to the club.
BW: We all know Marco Di Vaio, of course, but who would you say is the second biggest threat in the potent Montreal attack? The third? Or is it really mostly Di Vaio with a lesser cast surrounding him?
MRS: The team is built and plays around Marco Di Vaio. He is paid the big bucks to score and he is doing so with class and no remorse. The supporting cast is as important if not more for the Italian striker. Even as talented as he is, Di Vaio was never able to roam around the pitch himself.
This is when the midfield comes into play, led by center midfielder and playmaker of the club, Patrice Bernier. Playing in a deeper position than last year, Bernier is basically the trigger man for the club's offensive initiatives. Distributing quality passes like candy, the Montreal-Native is a must-have for the club to have any kind of success.
Still strikers are needed and Di Vaio is the main target. The big switch to a 2-striker formation has helped him a lot since the arrival of Daniele Paponi. His presence has helped Di Vaio to have more space and time to do what he does best.
The rest of the supporting vast have had their say with Justin Mapp playing great soccer and new-comers Andrea Pisanu and Andres Romero bringing some pep to the sides.
Watch out for Blake "Road Runner" Smith as the rookie left midfielder has been impressive every time he has played MLS minutes.
BW: I quite liked the Nesta signing by you guys last season, and I recall him doing well despite his old age. Has he been up to snuff again this year?
MRS: Tactically and positioning-wise, he has been perfect. With pre-emptive challenges on the opponent's offensive players, Nesta has been flawless most of the time. Unfortunately, his age and injuries are back to haunt him a few times this season.
He has played 8 games so far this season and the injury bug has hit him twice already. Hassoun Camara has been great in replacing him and Matteo Ferrari is the rock of that defense.
The physical fragility of Nesta was a known fact but outside that, he has been flawless and a true teacher to the younger defenders of the club.
Thanks again to Sofiane, head over to Mount Royal Soccer for everything you need to know about the Impact ahead of the game this weekend.