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MLS: Eastern Conference Preview

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ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Midfielder Felipe Martins #7 of the Montreal Impact passes upfield against the Columbus Crew in the final round of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic on February 23, 2013 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida
ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Midfielder Felipe Martins #7 of the Montreal Impact passes upfield against the Columbus Crew in the final round of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic on February 23, 2013 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida

Overview: For all intents and purposes, Montreal had a successful first season. Although posting the most amount of wins for an expansion team did little to save Jesse Marsch’s job. His replacement, Marco Schallibaum, is an MLS neophyte, which means that last season’s learning curve is set to continue. Schallibaum’s primary focus has been on fitness, which is smart considering the team’s best players are in the twilights of their careers. While it’s risky to assemble a team with so many aging players, the Impact’s success will derive from the experience those players have amassed throughout their careers. Nesta and Di Vaio have had the opportunity to adapt to the league; thus, they should hit the ground running. The former AC Milan player will form a respectable, yet slow, defensive anchor with Matteo Ferrari, while the latter is the kind of forward that should supply enough goals to make Montreal competitive.

Key Player: In a team populated by a number of big names, the key player will be someone relatively unknown. Patrice Bernier put himself on the map last season by scoring 9 goals and assisting in another 8. At thirty-three, the Canadian is no spring chicken, but retirement from international soccer will reduce his wear and tear.