Montreal Impact 2014 Season Preview: 4 Things to Watch for This Season

Eduardo MendezCorrespondent IIFebruary 26, 2014

Montreal Impact 2014 Season Preview: 4 Things to Watch for This Season

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Frank Klopas' tenure as the new head coach of the Montreal Impact will be the club's story to watch in 2014, but what additional storylines will complete your season preview?

    In part 10 of our 19-part series, we will take an in-depth look at the most intriguing plots surrounding the Impact this season. The number and player to watch, as well as the match that should immediately be circled on your calendar, will be delved into with great detail.

    Read on for your comprehensive guide to 2014.

     

    Note: Unless otherwise mentioned, credit all statistics to Squawka. All data collected is licensed from Opta Sports.

Offseason Transactions

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Before we preview the coming year, here is MLS's complete list of offseason acquisitions and departures that helped mold this season's version of the club.

     

    Players In:

    D/MEric MillerMLS SuperDraft
    FSantiago GonzalezTransfer from Sud America

     

    Players Out:

    DAlessandro NestaRetired
    MPaolo DelPiccoloOption Declined
    MMaximilliano RodriguezOption Declined
    MSinisa UbiparipovicOption Declined
    MDavy ArnaudTraded to D.C. United
    DZarek ValentinTransfer to Bodø/Glimt

The Story to Watch: Look...Another Head Coach

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Another newly appointed head coach. Another story to follow.

    After clinching their first-ever playoff berth, the Impact parted ways with Marco Schallibaum. The 47-year-old felt the same wrath as former coaches Jesse Marsch, Nick De Santis and a slew of others who fell by the wayside. Accepting the open position is former Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas.

    He will be Montreal's fourth coach in as many seasons.

    According to Olivier Tremblay on the club's official website, Coach Klopas sees this as another one of life's learning lessons:

    I've learned during my experiences playing for 17 years in Europe and here, with two and a half years as a coach, that the setbacks I've had made me a lot better. I've learned, and you must be able to do that. It's never going to go straight up. You will have setbacks. But I think that they're opportunities if, as a player and as a coach, you learn from them.

    "Setbacks" are something Montreal is very familiar with.

    Despite clinching its first-ever playoff berth, the club finished with just one victory in its last eight matches. Six of those matches finished in defeat. The Impact would still be in search of some postseason flavor if not for their 50 goals.

    Reversing Montreal's fortunes and returning to the playoffs will be Klopas' goal in 2014. There's no telling what kind of "setback" he might experience after the season should he fail.

The Number to Watch: 78

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    Marco Di Vaio is whistled offside walking out of his house at this point.

    No player was whistled for the infraction more than the 37-year-old in 2013 (78). Surprisingly enough,  Di Vaio still finished second behind Camilo Sanvezzo (123) with 118 shots. Camilo, however, was only whistled offside 17 times.

    Quite the disparity.

    The disparity between Di Vaio and the rest of MLS is...well, even more comical. His total of 78 is more than that of Eddie Johnson (42) and Deshorn Brown (29) combined. The two ranked second and third behind Di Vaio, respectively. 

    But all that said, Montreal’s No. 9 still finished with a famed 20-goal season.

    Not bad for a man who considered retirement after 2013. That uneasy feeling that surrounded Quebec’s Metropolis last season after family matters nearly pushed the Italian back to his native land is no more. At least one more season remains on his aging feet.

    How often those feet can stay onside, however, will be worth watching in 2014.

The Player to Watch: Hernan Bernardello

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    He was only the second designated player in club history.

    He only lasted eight weeks.

    After joining the Impact in July of last year, Hernan Bernardello saw 285 minutes before succumbing to an ankle injury in Week 27. The Argentine would be sidelined until Week 33 before returning and playing all 90 minutes in a 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution

    Continuity and conditioning—like most foreigners who join MLS—played a role Bernardello's acclimation process. But with a full offseason under his belt with the club, the Argentine is more comfortable with his surroundings entering 2014. 

    Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette has the story:

    Obviously, I want to step up my game a bit more. Definitely the team is most important and I'll do all I can to help the team win. It feels a lot better this season. Last year, it was something new. Now I know the guys. I feel more comfortable and feel a lot better.

    Being "comfortable" on the pitch remains key for the upcoming season.

    Despite starting just eight matches last season, Bernardello had two defensive errors that led to attempts. That total was enough to rank him first amongst midfielders, tied with Sam Cronin, Adam Moffat and Matias Laba. Those three, however, had the benefit of playing double the minutes of their counterpart. 

    The expectations of being a designated player will only increase in 2014. It's on Bernardello's shoulders to meet them.

The Match to Watch: The 401 Derby

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    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

    The Montreal Impact. Toronto FC. The 401 derby.

    The Impact will finish the 2014 regular season at home when D.C. United visits in late October, but the season could boil down to a result the week prior. The three points on the line when Montreal visits BMO Field on Oct. 18 could prove to be pivotal in the shaping of a crowded Eastern Conference. 

    The history between these two dates back to pre-MLS eras. But since the two have joined the first division, the results are as even as even can get.

    In six all-time meetings, both the Impact and TFC are 2-2-2. Toronto nearly played spoiler at the end of last season, defeating Montreal 1-0 at BMO Field. Fortunately for the Impact, the Fire were unable to obtain the required result in their visit to New York.

    The club clinched its first-ever playoff berth despite the loss.

    Even in its brief time on the national spotlight, this rivalry has already created some memorable moments. There was Montreal’s first MLS win on April 7, a second-division Impact upsetting Toronto in the Canadian Championship and lest we forget the 6-0 spanking Montreal gave Toronto in the second leg of the Canadian Championship semifinals.

    Should the stars align, the two could provide yet another memorable moment in the second-to-last week of the season.

     

    Eduardo Mendez is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and analyst for Opta Sports. Follow him on Twitter for more insight on a variety of sports topics.