The summer transfer window is one of the most exhilarating times of the season. Nobody knows the outcome. This is the period when illusions of grandeur to reimagine the team and the dream of the arrival of a messiah – or simply Messi – rub shoulders with disenchantment and sometimes even bitterness.
However, this year, CF Montreal did not wait before making a first shot that justified the wait. And it was a big one.
From the first day of the transfer window, Wednesday, the Impact untied the purse strings to grab striker Kwadwo Mahala Opoku. This acquisition of the LAFC in return for a total general allocation amount of 1.75 million is the first transaction of the Montrealers.
However, it should not be the last of Olivier Renard, vice-president and chief sports officer of the club. The Bleu-blanc-noir will have until August 2 to shop.
La Presse has established the files that should be at the top of Renard’s pile for the next month.
Under, say, normal circumstances, excluding the Gold Cup and the ton of injuries early in the season, CFM has depth in almost every position. He also has candidates who can progress and who fit in with the club’s sporting philosophy, that of developing young talents.
A position that leaves something to be desired, however, is in midfield. The club has two experienced defensive midfielders in Samuel Piette and Victor Wanyama. Even if he has hardly evolved in this position this season, Ilias Iliadis is a defensive training midfielder.
He can also count on two fairly complete midfielders in Nathan Saliba – who has made good progress in recent weeks – and the one who will take part in the All-Star game, Mathieu Choinière.
However, this position lacks a bit of depth. Piette’s return from injury will certainly help, but there could be stronger competition, whether as a defensive midfielder or a torchbearer. With a place available in the workforce, support that could come to help on the spot is not to be ruled out.
The other place where the club is in desperate need of renewal is in the attacking third. The Impact has the worst offense for a club currently in the playoffs, but has just added Opoku to boost its attack.
Is that enough to kick things off again?
Possibly, but the observation is that it will be difficult to add other pieces given a typical Montreal traffic jam. The Impact has six leading players (Sunusi Ibrahim, Chinonso Offor, Kwadwo Opoku, Romell Quioto, Mason Toye and Jules-Anthony Vilsaint), not to mention Ariel Lassiter and Lassi Lappalainen who sometimes come to help out in this position. He also has four attacking midfielders on hand (Bryce Duke, Ahmed Hamdi, Matko Miljevic and Sean Rea).
There is no lack of humans for the three positions available offensively. So before talking about an alleged arrival of Eden Hazard, it will be necessary to degrease a little.
A golden rule in the transfer window is to always prepare the ground in case of departure. Renard showed that this season by completing the acquisition of George Campbell and Gabriele Corbo in defense before letting Kamal Miller go. This is not always possible and sometimes you have to adapt, as with the addition of Aaron Herrera to fill in the departure of Alistair Johnston.
Nevertheless, we can occasionally do the work upstream. At the end of the season, two players will be free and without options to extend their contract, Romell Quioto and Rudy Camacho.
Quioto has been the club’s top scorer in the last three campaigns and still tops the club’s MLS table this season (3 goals) despite only playing 7 games. However, the Honduran’s injuries do not bode well for the future, hence the acquisition of an established player such as Opoku.
As for him, Camacho was the general at the heart of the Montreal defense. He also gave a boost in midfield at times, but proved essential in the center of the central hinge. It is also more complex when Campbell or Joel Waterman have to take over in this specific position. Before letting him go, it will be a think about it.
In the mid-season review, Renard said the club would explore the idea of sending “one or two players out on loan” before praising the strategy. Several candidates could well benefit from a new decor.
Naturally, the team can’t send everyone on loan and have to save themselves cartridges if they suffer a few injuries. That said, given the depth in defense, Róbert Thorkelsson or Ousman Jabang, who each have less than 250 minutes in MLS this season, could benefit from more playing time to develop.
With the arrival of Opoku, there is also some congestion in the attacking third, as mentioned earlier. Jules-Anthony Vilsaint, despite his 19 minutes obtained last Saturday against New York City FC, has only two games on the clock. In particular, there is no departure on his record.
If Quioto also returns from his injury, the Quebecer could be left on the bench more than ever. It will be up to Hernán Losada to pass on his game plan to the management, but Vilsaint is also a player who would have a lot to gain from going for goals and confidence.