Know Your Enemy: L’Impact de Montreal

When did Epcot move to Canada?

OTF’s Stephen Mangat vous donne le verite a l’Impact de Montreal…

In a 1956 interview with the American journalist Anna Louise Strong, Mao Zedong used the phrase to describe American imperialism. Amelia Earhart used it in a famous quotation about fear and tenacity. Hobbes (the tiger, not the philosopher) said that it’s a tiger that delivers newspapers. And based on the results of the 2013 MLS, L’Impact de Montreal is also worthy of being called a paper tiger. Le Quebecois have a fearsome record, but like ol’ Chairman Mao said, “In reality, [they] are nothing to be afraid of.” So Fire fans, lets keep this long train running and regardons at the Montreal Impact!



Recently, Coach Marco Schallibaum has been setting up L’Impact in a 4-3-3. He’s also used a flat 4-4-2 and a 4-5-1 this season. Add in a new designated player central midfielder and the diamond 4-4-2 is a definite possibility. Whatever the case, we’re guessing 4-3-3 since that’s been popular with the Swiss Mister of late.

In the 4-3-3, Montreal’s guys up top attack, the guys in midfield do the midfield stuff, and the defenders defend. While this formation generally leads itself to becoming a 4-5-1 when not in possession, don’t expect much of that from Montreal — not because Schallibaum doesn’t want it, but because the outside forwards aren’t going to do much defending. Chicago fans will recognize the try-hard-enough-to-make-it-appear-like-I’m-actually-trying defensive style of Justin Mapp and, while Sanna Nyassi does a bit better, he’s not much for defending either.

The opposite of Justin Mapp defense.


Troy Perkins is a classic MLS goalie: a very capable, if rather anonymous, vet who’s played for a few teams and had a chance with the national team.


Jeb Brovsky on the left and Hassoun Camara on the right are a decent enough duo, but Montreal’s problem is in the middle, where ex-Italy internationals Matteo Ferrari and Alessandro Nesta are struggling. Nesta, in particular, seems to be overwhelmed by the speed and physicality of the MLS. That said, L’Impact just signed ex-Wigan center back Adrian Lopez Rodriguez, so he could be the solution to Montreal’s defensive woes.

My name is Adrian Lopez Rodriguez. You killed my father. Prepare to die.


The Montreal midfield is a pretty solid bunch. Patrice Bernier, Felipe Martins and Davy Arnaud have been around the block and the complement one another well. Felipe is the typical skillful, creative Brazilian, and because every rose has its thorn, Bernier and Arnaud provide the industrious and tidy play to keep the team moving. Two other men to consider are new designated player Hernan Bernardello (Argentina), who could show up as a defensive midfielder, or Andres Romero, who has played up front and in central midfield.


Marco Di Vaio is the danger man here and probably doesn’t need much of an introduction. While he is no longer very fast, he still does a great job of finding and creating space for himself with and without the ball. Add his usually very good finishing and it’s not a surprise that he’s towards the top of the goal scoring chart. Sanna Nyassi and Justin Mapp will probably join Di Vaio up top, though don’t be surprised if they’re replaced by Andres Romero or Daniele Paponi.

How can Chicago win?

Go right at them

The Montreal defense is in full-on disaster mode. The Impact have allowed 16 goals in their past seven games, three of which were scored by DC United — in one game! The seven-game nightmare has seen DC, New York, Toronto (!) and Colorado score at least thrice. The variation in tactics and talent among the four above shows there are a bounty of options when it comes to successfully attacking Montreal. Frank Klopas should pick the one that’s been working as of recent, get the ball wide, then get service to Mike Magee, and wait for the goals to come.

Montreal defense = guy not on the bike

It’s all about Di Vaio

The Montreal attack is most successful when the other midfielders and attackers get the ball into the attacking third and then find Marco Di Vaio. As such, the Chicago defense needs to (a) get tighter to Di Vaio the closer he gets to the goal and (b) look to aggressively press the ball about 5-10 yards into their own half. Cutting off the supply to Di Vaio and denying him space in and around the box is the way to go.

Outside to inside

Montreal’s 4-3-3 is wide up top and narrow in the midfield. This should give Chicago’s wide men space to attack. As the outside mids attack, they should focus on the center of Montreal’s defense, as their outside backs are more effective than the big-name, aging center backs. The Klopas diagram should read: Larentowicz-to-Nyarko, Nyarko carries the ball into the attacking third, Nyarko dribbles or passes into the middle, Magee gets the ball, Magee scores.

Start from the outside and they’ll fall apart.

Best of luck, Fire fans. Now that the Open Cup dream is gone, it’s time to shift to another probably unattainable goal — the playoffs. Don’t worry, when the Union lose to DC United this weekend, we’ll join you in the pits of despair…after firing John Hackworth out of a cannon and across the Delaware River into New Jersey.

Two of the First State’s finest in the same place, son.

OTF’s Stephen Mangat has a framed photo of Joe Biden in his living room. Follow him @smangat12

One thought on “Know Your Enemy: L’Impact de Montreal

  1. Pingback: Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago vs. L’Impact de Montreal #2 | On The Fire

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