'15 Season Preview: Impact poised to bounce back

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Montreal Impact will be eager to get 2015 started so that the club can leave 2014 as far in the rearview mirror as possible.

After winning 12 and 14 games respectively in their first two seasons in MLS, the Impact took a big step back last year, tying for the league low with just six victories.

Montreal failed to win a game on the road last season and the club finished with the second-worst goal difference in MLS ahead of only Chivas USA.

In short, it was a debut season that head coach Flank Klopas will be eager to forget.

One of the few bright spots for the Impact in 2014 was the arrival of Argentina native Ignacio Piatti as a Designated Player midway through the season.

The 30-year-old came to Montreal from San Lorenzo and had an immediate impact, scoring four goals in his first six games. However, Piatti missed the final five matches through injury, which pretty much summed up the season.

However, there are reasons for optimism in Montreal.

After giving up 58 goals in league play last season, the Impact addressed the need by bringing in Belgium international defender Laurent Ciman as well as former Chicago Fire defender Bakary Soumare.

That duo should combine to lead a revamped Impact defense that also includes former Chivas USA left back Donny Toia.

Veteran goalkeeper Troy Perkins left after his contract expired, leaving Evan Bush to battle with Eric Kronberg for the starting spot between the posts.

An improved back line will no doubt lead to some better results, while the play in the midfield should also improve with veterans Nigel Reo-Coker and Marco Donadel both added to the mix.

That duo will provide some needed grit to a midfield that already includes talented wide players in Justin Mapp, Andres Romero and Dilly Duka.

Piatti's presence for a full season will be a big boost to the attack, but the question will be which forward combination will work best for Klopas.

Marco Di Vaio led the Impact with nine goals last season, but the Italian veteran retired at the end of the season, leaving Jack McInerney and recent acquisition Dominic Oduro to fill the void.

McInerney managed eight goals in 30 games for Montreal last season, but the 22-year-old will be counted on to step up and play a leading role this term.

Oduro brings plenty of pace to the side, but his production dipped last season in Toronto with just two goals and four assists in 24 appearances, and he will be hoping that a change of scenery can do him some good.

Things have already gotten off to a positive start for Montreal with the club earning a 2-2 draw against Mexican side Pachuca in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal, and the club is hoping that result is a sign of things to come in MLS this season.

ACQUISITIONS: Marco Donadel (M), Nigel Reo-Coker (M), Bakary Soumare (D), Eric Alexander (M), Ambroise Oyongo (D), Dominic Oduro (F).

LOSSES: Marco Di Vaio (F), Matteo Ferrari (D), Troy Perkins (GK), Heath Pearce (D), Felipe Martins (M).

OUTLOOK: Montreal should undoubtedly improve from its woeful season last year as the club's new arrivals instantly upgrade the team all over the field. The pairing of Ciman and Soumare should more than offset the loss of defenders Matteo Ferrari and Heath Pearce and make the Impact a more steady unit at the back. Reo-Coker and Donadel both bring valuable experience to the middle of the field, where the club was a bit soft last season. The wing play from Mapp, Duka and Romero should once again be good, and a full season with Piatti will make a big difference. Di Vaio's retirement will leave some big shoes to fill, and the Impact will have to hope the 22-year-old McInerney can step forward and make the most of his chance. This is certainly a better team than last season's edition and Klopas will expect more than six wins this year. However, a lot will need to go right for Montreal to return to the postseason for the second time in franchise history.