A soccer diary from across the pond

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Impact of Montreal's player strategy

This tweet made me chuckle, but also made me think about the pros and cons of having an old squad in the first season.

In the Montreal-Kansas City game the Impact's starting 11 had an average age of 27,8. This was however without players such as Matteo Ferrari (32), Bernardo Corradi (36) or Eduardo Sebrango (39).

Being an expansion team is difficult. Most of the players haven't played together before and at the same time you need to convince the local citizens of your product. In that sense having an older team in the beginning makes sense. You can use the experience of the old players to get instant success, which will help you established the team in the market (Yes, Montreal needs to reestablished itself - there is a huge difference between selling out the old Stade Saputo in the NASL and the new Stade Saputo in MLS.). 

With that in mind it makes sense for Joey and the Impact to go after players such as Ferrari, Corradi, Rivas, Di Vaio and Nesta. However, the strategy doesn't really seemed to have worked. The instant success hasn't appeared. They aren't Toronto FC bad (then again, who is?), but if you are going with older players in order to achieve something now, you can't really be happy about being behind New England in the standings.

At the same time Montreal soccer fans has failed to make an impact in the stands. They filled the Olympic Stadium for the home opener against Chicago and against LA, but after the attendance wouldn't even fill the new Stade Saputo. After moving into their right home, the Impact's attendance has collapsed with only 12.000 against Houston and Kansas City and only 14.000 against arch-rival Toronto.

Being a Toronto FC fan I could easily use this to make fun off and ridicule Montreal, but I won't. I want soccer to grow in North America and I want every single team to have some degree of success (obviously everyone can't have that at the same time) and I want them to fill their stadiums with passionate fans. Seeing 12.000 at Stade Saputo makes me sad and I hope Joey Saputo is taking this seriously and hopefully knows that in the long run, it will take more than signing Alessandro Nesta to put people in the seats.

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