Coming off the first Major League Soccer playoff appearance in team history, The Montreal Impact have a new head coach, a new captain and are looking to build on their success. TSN soccer analyst Noel Butler tells you everything you need to know about the 2014 Impact, while TSN soccer analyst Jason deVos tells you how they will succeed or fail during the new campaign.
Even with little turnover to the playing squad the off-season was far from quiet down Saputo Stadium way.
In mid-December the Impact finally announced it had not exercised Marco Schällibaum's option and that ex-Fire head coach, Frank Klopas would take over. Klopas inherited a squad of 21 returning players and by the time camp opened in late January that numbered had been enlarged to 28.
Those additions included defender Eric Miller, who was selected 5th in this year's SuperDraft. Then came the news Nelson Rivas had signed a new contract - the Columbian missed the entire 2013 campaign.
Just before the club departed for the Disney Classic two more recruits were added. Attacking midfielder Andrés Romero, a player who showed much promise in early 2013, returned on another season long loan. Plus the club announced the signing of 21-year old Uruguayan striker, Santiago González.
Bonus to those off-season moves evolves round two signings from last July.
Hernán Bernadello, the club's second designated player, was limited to only eight MLS appearances last season. Disrupting and orchestrating as he goes, Bernadello will sit in front of a defense which looked far from sure of itself during the pre-season.
The other is central defender Adrián López, who is yet to feature in a league match. A torn ACL, occurring during a collision in training, ended the 27-year old Spaniard's season. A fully fit López will feel like a new signing for the club.
The move to hire as an assistant coach a defensive specialist, in Nikolaos Kounenakis was further enhanced with the announcement Alessandro Nesta had been added to the backroom staff. Nesta has officially joined as a consultant, tasked to analyze video.
Much has been made of the fact Marco Di Vaio will miss the opening three matches. It could have been far worse. For most of last summer it seemed one of the league's best performers in 2013 would not return for 2014 at all.
Di Vaio will not score as freely as he did in 2013. Someone then who must shoulder more responsibility and finally return the faith shown in him by the club, is Andrew Wenger.
Appearing in 24 league matches in his second season as a professional it still remains a complete mystery how the first overall pick in 2012's SuperDraft only tallied a solitary goal over that span. The 23-year old must display a more ruthless streak in front of goal.
Bernier's appointment as captain is the greatest testament any MLS club could make. A local product who commands the respect of teammate and opponent alike, Bernier reflects the very best for an organization entering its 21st season as a professional soccer club.
When appointed, Klopas stated his philosophy has always been to look at the long run. Even in a league where parity prevails, only the most optimistic of the Impact faithful can realistically expect an immediate return to the playoffs this season.
In a conference which includes the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup winners, then factor in the wholesale changes and upgrades in Toronto, there can be no denying Klopas has his work cut out to build on 2013's achievements.
TSN Soccer analyst Jason deVos weighs in on how the Impact will succeed or fail during the 2014 season.
Montreal Impact will succeed if…
…they find a partner for Matteo Ferrari at the back, and get goals from anyone not named Di Vaio.
With the retirement of Alessandro Nesta (who has moved into a 'consultancy' role with the club), Montreal need to find a starting centre back to partner Ferrari. Every indication was that this player would be Nelson Rivas, but his horrendous injury history has continued this season, and he looks unlikely to be fit to start the season.
Wandrille Lefèvre has looked capable in pre-season, and he will likely get the first opportunity. If that fails, expect right fullback Hassoun Camara to slide inside.
Up front, Marco Di Vaio is suspended for the first three games, due to his red card in the 2013 MLS Cup playoff loss to the Houston Dynamo. He will continue to score goals for the Impact, but it is supplemental scoring that is a concern for new head coach, Frank Klopas.
No other player came close to hitting double digits last season, and unless that is rectified in 2014, Di Vaio will come under immense pressure to continue finding the back of the net.
Montreal Impact will fail if…
…any of their key players go down with lengthy injuries or suffer a poor run of form.
The likes of Ferrari, Di Vaio, Hernan Bernardello and new skipper, Patrice Bernier must remain fit and available if the Impact are to succeed this season.
The Impact have problem areas in their team - their entire left flank being one of them - and they simply cannot afford to have the spine of their team go missing.
If any of their key players struggles with injury or form, there are very few like-for-like options available. The one with the most pressure on his shoulders is last year's leading scorer, Di Vaio, whose 20 goals were the reason that Montreal made the playoffs. If anyone can handle that pressure, though, it is the Italian. If only the Impact could find another like him.
2013 finish: 14-13-7 (fifth in Eastern Conference). Lost to Houston in Knockout Round.
Who's In?: F Santiago Gonzalez (transfer from Sud America).
Who's Out: M Davy Arnaud (traded to D.C. United), M Paolo DelPiccolo (option declined), D Alessandro Nesta (retired), M Maximiliano Rodriguez (option declined), M Sinisa Ubiparipovic (option declined), D Zarek Valentin (transfer to Bodo/Glimt).
SuperDraft: D Eric Miller (1-5), MF George Maliki (2-37).