By AVI CREDITOR
Fans of the Montreal Impact who saw their team labor through a troubling 2011 NASL campaign and at one point staged a protest against team management probably couldn't forsee the events of this past week coming.
By opting to build its nucleus around established MLS veterans and a few young players who could thrive with an opportunity in a new situation as opposed to building around pricey newcomers who aren't as familiar with the inner workings of the league, Montreal has laid the groundwork to be far more than a doormat in its expansion season in MLS.
Granted, it is still very early in the process, and a number of personnel moves have yet to be made, but a look at the current roster shows the makings of a team that can compete immediately in a wide open Eastern Conference.
Monday's trades to acquire midfielder Davy Arnaud and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts only reinforce that point (for more on those deals, check out Ives' take on the Arnaud and Ricketts acquisitions for Fox Soccer).
Here's the Impact roster as it currently stands:
GOALKEEPERS – Donovan Ricketts, Evan Bush
DEFENDERS – Zarek Valentin, Bobby Burling, Nelson Rivas, Josh Gardner, Tyson Wahl
MIDFIELDERS – Davy Arnaud, Sanna Nyassi, Justin Mapp, Hassoun Camara, Collen Warner, Gerson Mayen, Jeb Brovsky, Bryan Arguez, Sinisa Ubiparipovic
FORWARDS – Brian Ching, Justin Braun
When the lists for the Re-Entry Draft are released on Wednesday, they'll provide even more options for the Impact to add league-tested talent to a roster already full of it.
Depth at forward and defense are obvious areas of need that the club figures to address in the Re-Entry Draft, SuperDraft and through international signings.
The Ching situation is also one worth watching, as a potential trade back to Houston looms down the line after the Dynamo's gamble of leaving their captain and forward unprotected for the expansion draft backfired. Montreal coach Jesse Marsch spoke of maximizing the expansion draft from a value standpoint, and Montreal stands to do just that by forcing Houston's hand.
The way things currently stand, though, with a stud young defender in Valentin and other nice building blocks at fullback in Wahl and Gardner; experienced centerbacks in Burling and former Inter Milan man Rivas; a seasoned piece in central midfield with Arnaud; capable and proven wingers in Mapp and Nyassi; and a potential forward star in Braun, who at this time last year was being touted as a U.S. national team candidate, Marsch and his staff have a strong foundation to work with in trying to mimic the first-year efforts of recent expansion clubs Seattle and Portland as opposed to the last-place exploits of Vancouver.
What do you think of the Impact's roster so far and their early moves? Do you see Montreal being able to contend in its first season?
Share your thoughts below.