MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact fought until the last day of the Major League Soccer regular season before missing out on a playoff berth.
The players believe they can go further next season, so long as they get a little more consistency in their lineup.
"If a lot of players stay here, we can start next season better than we did this year," star forward Ignacio Piatti said as the Impact players cleaned out their lockers Wednesday morning. "We all know each other better now. If we don't change a lot, we can do it. I think we can make the finals. I want to win here,"
The Impact are ending a season filled with changes from top to bottom. Former Olympique Lyonnais and Aston Villa manager Remi Garde joined the club last off-season and 16 new players were brought in over the year, including midfielder Saphir Taider, winger Alejandro Silva and defenders Rod Fanni and Bacary Sagna.
Still, Impact were almost a playoff team, which is surprising considering their start of the year. Growing pains were felt by the Impact as they only picked up four victories through their first 15 league games. Owner Joey Saputo even cautioned more changes would come and there were no "untouchables" on his squad.
"We felt sorry for ourselves," Impact defender Daniel Lovitz said. "A lot of the big losses we had at the beginning of the year kind of contributed to a downward trend for the whole group. It wasn't the best."
Montreal rallied in the second half of their season. The team impressed at home, earning an 11-4-2 record. But their play on the road doomed them, including a Decision Day loss to the New England Revolution last Sunday that eliminated them from playoff contention.
"We need to be more consistent," Sagna said. "And to have more confidence in ourselves. At home, we were able to be imposing when we needed to. But we need to be better on the road."
Despite the desire for consistency,the winds of change may barrel through the roster again. There's uncertainty around the futures of strikers Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Matteo Mancosu and Quincy Amarikwa, who did little to help Montreal's needs for a quality forward up top. The three players combined for six goals in 2018.
Jackson-Hamel, who scored nine goals in 2017, seemingly fell out of favour with Garde and made just two appearances in the last 14 games of the year.
"If the team doesn't want me to play, I can't just stay home and wait," Jackson-Hamel said. "I think the style of play we play isn't necessarily compatible with mine."
The Impact, however, seem to be keen on keeping a number of players for next year. Piatti told the media he'd play out the final year of his contract, but he's uncertain of his future beyond that.
Sagna and Fanni have expressed interest in returning, and goalkeeper Evan Bush also confirmed contract negotiations for him have started.
"I've been here for eight years. During that time I've never had more than one year of security. It's always been an option year." Bush said. "It adds a little bit more stress to the family side of things. Not always knowing what your future holds. It could hold something in three months anyway. Even if I sign an eight-year contract, they could trade me in three months. Some of those things are out of your hands."
NOTES: The Impact named Piatti their team MVP for the fourth straight season. The Argentine led the team in scoring with 16 goals and 13 assists. Bush was named defensive player of the year, leading all MLS goalies with 132 saves.