clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Fireside Chat: Montreal Impact v. Chicago Fire - Preview, MLS #6

Deep-dish pizza smack? The Fireside Chat series rounds into midseason form in this chat with Sofiane Benzaza of Mount Royal Soccer

Will we see Alex restored to the starting XI on Saturday?
Will we see Alex restored to the starting XI on Saturday?
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

In the latest edition of this regular feature, we speak with Sofiane Benzaza of Mount Royal Soccer, our SB Nation cousin devoted to the Montreal Impact. If you ever want to see how inadequate your high school French education really was, pop on over for a refresher by way of, say, hardcore tactical discussions en Français.

Please to be noting that MRS stands for Mount Royal Soccer, and not Missus anything. Stop grinning at me - seriously, dude, grow up. No, it's not Hot Time talking to 'the Missus.' Stop it. Come on. Look, I'm just going to dive in here ...

We ask, they answer

Hot Time: All the worry about who would succeed the increasingly aged Marco di Vaio in the Impact lineup (once he hangs up his boots, that is) was apparently answered last week, when l'Impact dealt Andrew Wenger to Philadelphia for Jack McInerney. What was the reaction to the deal among Montreal supporters?

MRS: It was pretty much unanimous that the Montreal Impact fans, media and observers were convinced that the club has won that trade. There was a joy just for the fact that the Impact made a trade in MLS.

The joy and surprise was even bigger when we heard that McInerney was coming to Montreal and Andrew Wenger was the other piece that went the other way.

Whether JackMac will be the heir apparent to Di Vaio or just a "rental" player will remain to be seen. Sporting Director, Nick De Santis, did confirm that the option on McInerney's contract will be picked up. So unless the young striker leaves MLS, he should be an Impact player in 2015.

Who will end up winning the trade? Time will tell.

Hot Time: Obviously, the results haven't been good to this point for the Impact, but has the play been two-points-from-five-games bad? Or are there hints that Montreal could be about to turn a corner?

MRS: Offensively, the Impact is turning a corner. It is no coincidence that the offensive boost started when Di Vaio came back from his 3-game suspension. At least offensively, the Impact is playing much better and it showed against the Red Bulls last Saturday.

Defensively, the club is still weak, disorganized and sometimes confused on the choices it makes as per recruitment, personnel choices on the pitch and tactical awareness to shelter a vulnerable back-line.

The Impact can score goals, or at least create a few chances, but can it defend properly to keep a score? Or to win games more consistently? Not yet in my book.

Hot Time: Quebec is now three months into the Frank Klopas Experience. Given what you've seen so far, what do you think the chances are that Klopas starts 2015 in the Black and Blue?

MRS: One thing for sure, Frank Klopas will finish the year no matter what. Outside a cataclysmic event, the third head coach of the Impact will finish the year and be back in 2015.

It's too early to evaluate as per his coaching skills although he is walking a thin line with media and supporters as he has benched Patrice Bernier for three consecutive games. And he probably does not care.

The move to get Jack McInerney seems to be from Frank Klopas, the Director of Player Personnel, though I am speculating. But I feel that roster movements will be happening more in 2014 under Frank Klopas.

MRS predicted starting XI (4-4-2): Perkins - Miller, Camara , Ferrari, Pearce - Warner, Bernardello , Bernier , Felipe - Di Vaio , McInerney

MRS score prediction: I predict a 3-1 win for the Impact.

They ask, we answer

MRS: Frank Yallop has replaced Frank Klopas at the helm of the club. With quite a few off-season roster changes, is Yallop correcting Klopas' mistakes or is he just implementing his vision? Is he preparing a big splash for a big DP-type player later this summer?

Hot Time: In answer to the first question, a bit of both. The salary cap situation left by the Klopas/Leon front office was apparently a disaster. Yallop and Technical Director Brian Bliss have spent a majority of their effort seemingly taking a broom to the oddities within the roster - for example, the long list of loanees has been pared down considerably. The most significant moves have been concentrated on clearing cap space, but Magee's new extension will certainly take most of that.

At the same time, he's trying to move toward a team that keeps the ball on the ground, and that new emphasis has refigured some of the depth chart. We could see more movement out before we see much movement in, and those players on starter-level deals not currently solid locks for the gameday XI might want to see about going month-to-month on the lease.

Life is always full of surprises, and it's possible that the Fire have identified a very affordable DP - possibly someone out of contract in the summer - but I doubt it. Absent another big trade, our exciting midseason addition will likely be 19-year-old flank player Grant Ward, on loan from Tottenham.

MRS: The Chicago Fire is also winless in 2014. What is the biggest problem right now between scoring more goals or conceding less?

Hot Time: Absolutely, 100% the problem is with conceding goals. As you'll see on Saturday, the Fire can be a handful to defend - the team thinks well, uses space well, and creates more chances than an average MLS team. And they're hard to play against, generally, clogging passing lanes, pressing out hard when they can.

The team's Achilles heel has been set piece defending, full stop. In five games, the Fire have given up nine goals; seven - SEVEN - from set piece situations. So, yeah, that's a problem - spotting the other team a goal-and-a-half PER GAME and hoping to rescue it is no way to go through life. Yet here we are.

I wouldn't be shocked to see changes at the back this week. During last week's broadcast of the game, the Fire surrendered a goal off a set piece during the execrable 'talk to the gaffer during the game' segment. The discerning listener could pick out a truly epic, profanity-laced frothing-mouth rant from a Fire assistant coach (who shall remain nameless) in the background of that interview, the gist of which was "Every! F--king! Time! He watches it every time!"

We leave it for a puzzle for the readership who the 'he' was in the rant.

MRS: We all know that Deep Dish Pizza has nothing on Italian Pizza Montreal-Style. Now that I have opened everyone's appetite and misdirected everyone, Is Frank Klopas remotely missed at Chicago?

Hot Time: Of course we miss Frank Klopas! He is a Fire legend, a Ring of Fire member, scorer of one of the biggest goals in Fire history, and is a great guy. We miss the hell out of Frank Klopas.

Do we miss him as a head coach, or Director of Soccer, or whatever? Nah. But that's in the past. The Fire family still loves Frank. I'm reminded of Liverpool supporters' relationship with Kenny Dalglish - love the guy, love his effort, think he's not quite manager material, but wish him all the best. When Montreal plays in Chicago, Klopas will get love, despite everything.

Now, I found your pizza claim interesting - I'd never heard of Montreal-style pizza before. Some research on the internet led me to the conclusion that you need to get to Lou Malnati's or Gino's East - or some other location our readers will suggest - IMMEDIATELY. You are speaking a blasphemy, of which you should feel shame.

Predicted Fire starting XI (4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Greg Cochrane, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Lovel Palmer; Dilly Duka, Alex, Jeff Larentowicz (c), Patrick Nyarko; Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa.

Game prediction: I see the Fire winning 2-1, with goals for Magee and a midfielder, and Di Viao poaching one for l'Impact.