You could be forgiven for thinking that all the best teams are in the Western Conference. Just look at the standings and the point totals. If MLS was all one table, the best team in the East would be in fourth place. However, that best team in the East, the Montreal Impact, is deceptively solid in all areas except for one.
Good luck finding a category that the Impact does not have a commanding presence in, as a team or with individual players. To save you the time of looking that up yourself, let me lay it out for you.
Going into the Saturday matchup with Toronto, Montreal is blessed with three people in MLS’ team of the season thus far. Naturally, the center back pair of Laurent Ciman and Victor Cabrera is holding down the back line. These two hold down the first and second spots in MLS for interceptions, with Cabrera notching six per match and Ciman providing 4.7. In terms of clearances, Ciman ranks in first with 7.8, a fill clearance and a half more than second place. When it comes to tackles, Cabrera comes in a subtle fourth.
Montreal’s defense has surrendered just six goals on the year and it is so easy to see why. With the best center back pairing in MLS, any attack will find itself a bit stifled.
But it’s not all in the defense. Offensively, the Impact have just as many strong points, if not moreso. Ignacio Piatti is making a strong claim for MLS MVP as he is second in chances created behind just Diego Valeri. He is also second in the league in dibbles complete.
It’s not for idle praise that I am throwing these stats out there. When you build a team, there are a couple things you look for. Montreal has those things, minus one ingredient, which I will get to later. Think of some of the teams out there that are so close to domination and compare them to the teams that are dominant. What do the Galaxy have that NYCFC doesn’t? Defense. What does FC Dallas have that Chicago and New England don’t? Consistent (and/or healthy) attackers.
No team is perfect, but if there was any team that was pretty damn close, it would be Montreal.
This Montreal team has so many key pieces in place. These same key pieces drove into the playoffs last year with a head of steam and are continuing that that steaming right to the top of the East. However, that one key missing ingredient is the striker. They need Didier Drogba. They have the defensive solidity. They have the creative pivot. All they need is the class finisher and this Montreal team can be a Western Conference powered team holding down an enigmatic Eastern Conference.