Sofiane Benzaza, Editor of Mount Royal Soccer, is someone I have always had a lot of respect for when it came to his writing. It may seem strange, considering the struggles he has with the English language at times, but there are few analysts of the game who can compare with Sofi's breakdowns. If the United States talking heads had as much insight as Sofi, there would be no denying the true beauty of the game.
With that said, and without further adieu, my three questions with Sofiane Benzaza and Mount Royal Soccer.
1) The Montreal Impact honestly surprised a lot of people early on by starting the season with a rather impressive win streak. Since then, the team has in a way come back down to Earth. What has changed from the opening of the season to now?
Predictability and Age.
I have said it many times but other MLS teams have caught up to the Impact, something that the club knew would happen. No one can expect Montreal to win all 34 games in such a long MLS season. But other tangible factors can be perceived, analysed and dissected.
Felipe Martins was the big absentee of 2013, at least in the first half of the season. He is having a better season this year statistically. But his impact on the field has been absent compared to what he did in 2012. He is not the sole reason why the Impact went through a slump.
But too many factors have accumulated including a depth that was only deep in numbers and not quality. Patrice Bernier is getting help with the arrival of Hernan Bernardello and the back line will take Adrian Lopez's help anytime of the day.
2) Both the Montreal Impact and the Houston Dynamo have played the fewest number of games in the Eastern Conference thus far, tied with the Chicago Fire. The Montreal Impact currently sit in 3rd place, one point away from first place Sporting Kansas City and New York Red Bulls, with both of those teams having played 2 more games than Montreal. The Houston Dynamo currently sit in 5th place, three points from first place SKC and NYRB, but also with 2 games in hand. How important do you feel those two games in hand are going to be coming down the final stretch for Montreal?
They are huge but at one point, the Impact had 5-6 games in hand so when do we draw the line? After a certain point, those games in hand become a burden especially when you lose games. The '' points in the bank'' of the Spring have helped the Impact in keeping pace. The games in hand have done the same but at this point of the season, the Impact will need to win games at all costs.
Marco Schallibaum must not let the pscyhological relief of these games in hand become a pressure point for headaches and what-ifs.
3) Let's be honest. There is one name everybody wants to hear about, and that is Di Vaio. He has been an absolute wonder for the Impact, and I am wondering if you could give us a generalized breakdown of what he does well and what he struggles with most?
Location, Location, Location
Marco Di Vaio's runs are part of a refined package that only elite strikers have, I have enjoyed watching him with Parma, Juventus and Bologna. But watching live at Stade Saputo is amazing and it's like getting a free soccer clinic for 90 minutes. He instinctively runs towards the goal at the right time and at the right spot.
He will make himself small and let defenders forget about him and he will suddenly surge out of nowhere. Getting service from quality players like Patrice Bernier and Justin Mapp helps a lot but he is making their lives easier when they synchronise.
He struggles the most when he is alone. Not necessarily as the lone striker but leaving Di Vaio to battle physically strong defenders is not a good idea. He does not , and never had, crazy speed to take on whole defense but compensates with a precise quick shot. Kill Di Vaio's service and you will shut him down but keep your eyes open as he will only need one chance to make you look bad.
Troy Perkins - Jeb Brovsky ; Matteo Ferrari; Alessandro Nesta; Hassoun Camara - Hernan Bernardello; Patrice Bernier; Sanna Nyassi; Justin Mapp - Felipe Martins; Marco Di Vaio
3-1 victory for the Houston Dynamo
So there you have it. For Sofi's questions for me, as well as my answers and prediction/lineup, head over to Mount Royal Soccer to read more.