San Jose Earthquakes vs. Montreal Impact Match Preview
Following a disappointing 2016 season, which saw the club fail to qualify for the postseason for the fourth-consecutive year, the Quakes have re-tooled their attack and their hopes to hit the ground running in 2017.
San Jose bolstered their roster with a stable of new signings, and a new general manager. Jessie Fioranelli, who joined the Quakes from the sporting direction unit of AS Roma, brought a multitude of European and Latin American imports to the club. Most notable of those acquisitions were Albanian national Jahmir Hyka and Dutch import Danny Hoesen, who will likely compete with the newly acquired Costa Rican national Marcos Urenã to lead the play alongside team captain Chris Wondolowski.
Fioranelli jettisoned multiple expensive players during the offseason, parting company with Clarence Goodson, Innocent Emeghara and Henok Goitom. The club also opted to move in a different direction with veterans Bryan Meredith, Chad Barrett, Steven Lenhart, Mark Sherrod, Jordan Stewart and Alberto Quintero.
Manager Dominic Kinnear is undoubtedly on the hot seat, who has been given another season at the helm after missing the playoffs during his first two tries. The 49-year-old two-time MLS Cup champion manager is very conscious of what’s at stake, and recently told ESPNFC the most pressure he feels is from his own self.
“I feel pressure, mostly from myself; I’m very competitive,” he said. “The first year coming in here, we wanted to improve the team, which I think we did. The second year we took a step backwards, which for me was a huge disappointment.”
Their first contest comes against a rather unfamiliar foe, but one nonetheless that they’ve struggled against historically — the Montreal Impact have collected three wins at home and two draws on the road against the Quakes, undefeated all-time against San Jose.
Like San Jose, Montreal enter the season with momentum of a different sort brewing, manager Mauro Biello is likely anxious to get back out on the pitch after his veteran side pushed the club to the helm of last year’s Eastern Conference Final.
Didier Drogba, as many expected, has departed from his Impact teammates. But Ignacio Piatti and the stable of veteran talent that shocked the league last season remains largely intact. The Montreal Impact also signed striker Matteo Mancosu to a permanent deal on Thursday, the 32-year-old joined the club on loan last July Italian club Bologna. Mancosu scored three goals in 15 regular season games last season before blowing the top off the lid in the playoffs, netting four times in five games as Montreal reached the Eastern Conference final.
Projected starting XI (4-4-2): David Bingham — Nick Lima, Victor Bernardez, Florian Jungwirth, Shaun Francis — Jahmir Hyka, Anibal Godoy, Fatai Alashe, Simon Dawkins — Chris Wondolowski, Marco Ureña