Taking It To The Next Level: Montreal Impact Start The Dance With The 2011 Expansion Draft

CARSON, CA - MAY 22: Justin Braun #17 of Chivas USA shoots and scores a goal between Jean Alexandre (L) #12 and Nat Borchers #6 of Real Salt Lake in the second half at the Home Depot Center on May 22, 2010 in Carson, California. Real Salt Lake defeated Chivas USA 2-1. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Expansion drafts can make or break an expansion team for a few years. Did the Impact choose correctly?

Listening back to different sound bites from Montreal Impact coach Jesse Marsch, you realize that he is a man of his word and is pretty much a straight shooter when it comes to talking about how he sees soccer. When talking about how he wants to build his team, he has said things he's looking for "players that can play at the next level," and that he wants to "build from the back" and "build a strong nucleus." This has been directly translated via the Impact’s expansion draft picks and post-draft transactions.

Before the draft, the Montreal Impact had under contract Nelson Rivas , Hassoun Camara, Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Evan Bush. At the end of the expansion draft, we can clearly see that Marsch walks like he talks and is pretty much a straight shooter. From the beginning, his vision was clear and simple, a vision that included MLS level players, a strong backbone/skeleton, leadership and young prospects that are not far from or already at the aforementioned ''next level.'' We will put aside the Brian Ching situation and look at players that were selected and traded for who have a bigger chance to make an Impact with the 19th MLS franchise. 

With MLS rookie Evan Bush as the only goalkeeper, the Montreal Impact did not waste time to add depth and experience by getting Donovan Ricketts from the Los Angeles Galaxy in exchange of allocation money. The 34-year-old Jamaican international was the 2010 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and will bring experience, performance to the team and a mentor value to Bush and the young goalkeepers of the Impact. The latest addition to the goalkeeper position is veteran and the one of the best goalkeepers in the Montreal Impact's history: Greg Sutton . the 34-year old Canadian goalkeeper brings a familiarity factor to the team plus fills up a Canadian spot as the MLS roster rules requires for MLS clubs in Canada a minimum of three Canadian domestic players on their rosters: 1 down, 2 to go.With 40+ games in the MLS, Greg Sutton will still bring experience , mentor ship and depth to an expansion that will need all thee help it can get.

Competition is excellent within a team but Montreal has seen fit to include a learning and development aspect in the process.

With Rivas already part of the MLS roster, the Impact did not waste time with the selection of Zarek ValentinBobby BurlingJosh Gardner and Tyson Wahl going toward solidifying their back-line with players like Gardner able to play as a left back and left winger. Very quickly, the Impact have established a strong experienced backline that mixes the ability to play physically, run fast and move the ball quickly, all part of the ''next level'' modo that the Impact needs to never forget.

Right in front of the defence comes a mix of experience and youth. Collen Warner and Jeb Brovsky have shown some promise in the MLS but are not necessarily juggernauts. They could add some depth from the bench for rotating players and injuries. The core of the midfield is composed of Justin Mapp, Davy Arnaud (coming from trading back Seth Sinovic to Sporting KC), Hassoun Camara and Sinisa Ubiparipovic. The likes of Arnaud and Mapp bring leadership and experience with versatility that will bring a stability to the midfield but don't discount Camara that will make his mark in the MLS with physical play and excellent ball distribution. Big hopes are put on Ubiparivic who will look to prove nay-sayers wrong as he comes back to the MLS and asserts himself as a playmaker, feeding strikers and wingers.

The attacking side of the Montreal Impact is starting to shape up with Sanna Nyassi and Justin Braun. Both players could represent a big part of the attacking nucleus of the Impact as they are both young and with interesting MLS experience. Nyassi brings speed to the wings and also enjoys cutting to the middle and is much more than just the athlete that he seems to be. Braun  has shown consistency and quality with 24 goals in 72 MLS games with Chivas USA. Official word came out 2 days ago that  Miguel Montano has officially signed with  the Impact adding young offensive talent to the team. Even if talented, Miguel Montano is still raw and needs to prove that he has the maturity to eat,sleep, practice and play at the MLS level. At the tender age of 20, the Colombian forward has shown promise with the NASL Montreal Impact and his game intelligence could help him to mature faster.

This big picture of the Impact shows a mix of everything basically as you would expect from an expansion team. The whole point of the expansion draft is to build a team with some experience and some youth to be able to compete at a minimum level. From there, it's all building a team with what you have and add part from outside without forgetting Jesse Marsch's main themes: Playing at the next level, building from the back, building a strong nucleus.

The road will be long and difficult but the Montreal are putting all the chances on their side by going for experience with a mix of youth to compete as fast as possible without forgetting to develop the soccer in the city of Montreal and in the province of Quebec. I cannot stress enough the importance of developing a soccer project in a soccer city like Montreal. A big challenge of Montreal will be to sell a north-american version of soccer with fans that have a strong European/African/South American influence but the fans will be at the rendez-vous for a historical MLS season.

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