New York Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact: Three Questions With Mount Royal Soccer

Oh, Canada, why is your national anthem so much nicer than ours?

Ahead of the Red Bulls' match against Montreal tomorrow, we swapped three questions with SB Nation's Impact blog Mount Royal Soccer. You can find their questions for us and our answers here.

1)Montreal had a very long pre-season schedule, with sixteen games against a wide variety of opponents. Has this helped mitigate some of the problems of building a squad for the move to MLS?

Any team will find it hard to truly gel and become a united squad via pre-season games. Jesse Marsch selected a lot of the players (signings, expansion/super draft, trades) with an idea on how they fit on the pitch but also off the pitch. Playing a good number of games was very important as you point out, giving time for players to understand each other soccer wise. The long training camp in Mexico and Los Angeles seemed to have created a solid base for team chemistry. A leader of men himself as a player, Jesse Marsch must have conveyed that as a coach as he is an excellent communicator. The stronger unity seemed to have come at the Orlando tournament where playing MLS opposition seemed to give a sense of ''US vs The World'' as an expansion team but also gave a sense of confidence to players that they can compete in this league, as a unit.

2)Like most clubs in MLS, including the Red Bulls, the Impact tend to play a flat-midfield 4-4-2. Are there any interesting wrinkles in the way Montreal plays this system, and how has Jesse Marsch utilized Justin Braun's talent in the attacking third?

As per the flat-midfield in the 4-4-2, it's all about ball possession from left to right, passing through the middle. With no real blazing speed (e.g. winger-type speed) on the sides with Davy Arnaud and Justin Mapp, extra pressure will come on the fullbacks/outside backs as per defensive duties if opponents can play on that. The Felipe Martins - Patrice Bernier duo likes to play the ball in a distribution/playmaking role. With no real #10, the passing going forward will be as a unit but that seemed to have worked very well. Although still very early in the season, I see one weakness in the midfield and that would be the size/physicality. Felipe and Bernier are quite though for their size/weight but I have noticed that a lot of aerial battles in the midfield have not gone Montreal's way. Bernier is able to challenge for aerial balls but we saw a few lost battles against the Columbus Crew.

More after the jump....

Justin Braun is the spearhead of the Montreal Impact attack. One of his role is to constantly press the other team's defenders and he is a work horse. Aided by Sanna Nyassi and the side midfielders to press, Justin Braun is brave and strong. Two flaws come out in his game:

* A striker/centre forward will have the ability to break off the box to help out a midfielder or offer options on the sides. But Justin Braun does not stay enough in the box. I am not sure yet if he is overzealous or are the Montreal Impact not playing enough in the box but this part of his game can be worked on as per positioning and effort management. With his size, he will need to be a fixation point to his team-mates as he battles the centre back who will gladly sign his elbow on Braun's back and Braun is not afraid of battling.

* Justin Braun's many first touches have been technically poor. This does not enable to have a quick attack or to construct in a timely manner. I am not sure if this is due to an injury, some doubts in his game or just lack of technical talent in that area but that is an important aspect that makes the difference between getting rid of a defender or having him on your tail and end up being in constant battles for the ball as you run around for it.



3)How has the atmosphere been around Montreal since the start of the season? Was there much hype leading up to the home opener, and how does the level of media coverage compare with the attention that the Impact have gotten over the past few years?

The Media coverage has gone up since the NASL/USL days. As much as Montreal is Habs town, there is decent coverage for the Montreal Impact but there is room for more than just reporting news and scores, outside radio/tv broadcasting. Traditional media have given good coverage via print and web and the blog-o-sphere has boomed with a strong following. The #IMFC hashtag has not hit records of trending but there is activity out there.

The fans have responded and not just for the show and event but to the soccer. The hype to the home opener was palpable as the countdown officially started after the first game in Vancouver. You will see some ''Euro-Snobbism'' as the MLS product is still being introduced to some but the Montreal fan is faithful to his home team. Montreal being a cosmopolitan , multi-ethnic city, soccer is not new to many fans and with patience and managed expectations, the following will stay here. There are doubts about having 30-40K+ fans at the Olympic Stadium but expect strong crowds at Saputo Stadium when renovations. Season tickets sales are officially over 5000, but expect a boost in season tickets sales, media coverage, and following as soon the Designated Player is introduced in May-June 2012.
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