Many unfamiliar faces will be on the field for both Sporting KC and the surprise victors of Ligue 1, Montpelier HSC. Let's just reflect on how strange their victory in 2012 was and ponder who should be leading the attack this year with Olivier Giroud off to Arsenal.
The start of the awkward summer friendly season is upon us. In a time where the schedules are already compacted by international dates in June, summer friendlies offer us the time to watch some of the larger clubs in the world and many of our reserves. It's not all bad as sometimes you pull a stunner, like our 2-1 defeat of Manchester United back in 2010. Mostly it's just a fun way to feature our stadium and earn some money.
As the opponent this time is not very well known, let's look at Montpelier HSC, currently cashing in on the Ligue 1 championship they secured this past season.
2012 Defines Montpelier
There are some moments that occurred in Montepelier's history worth remembering, but neevr mistake them for a powerhouse or even historically competitive club. The list of former players from the late 80's early 90's is amazing. From the iconic Eric Cantona, recently ousted French coach Laurent Blanc, Roger Milla arguably the best player ever to come out of Africa, and my personal favorite Carlos Valderrama, it was clear they weren't lacking for star power. However, those names never brought them a league title.
Ligue 1 is an interesting league. It isn't as top heavy or talented as England and Spain, but after this year may reflect the German Bundesliga more than anything. Olympic Lyon won seven consecutive titles to open the decade, but the past four years have seen four different champions. Much like the Bundesliga, the spending (outside of PSG, who has gone nuclear this year on the transfer market) is curtailed to a point that a competitive balance occurs, even with a clear favorite existing. The knock on Ligue 1 is a dependence on defense, that has actually served them well in international competition against better opponents.
Montpelier was led last season by Olivier Giroud's 23 goals and a defense that allowed a league low 34 in league play. Giroud has since moved on to greener pastures in London, playing for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. The incoming players at Montpelier are younger and they seem to be following the French model of selling out older talent and reloading. However, with Paris St. Germaine being bought out by Qataris, that window they climbed through may have been shut promptly afterwards.
Player To Watch
I won't lie I have no idea who will be playing ahead of him after Giroud left, but expect them to be better for having Belhanda as the number 10. Belhanda was the second leading scorer as well as supplying four assists last season and he was a major part of the improvement that got Montpelier its first league title. He's just 22 and if he continues the improvement seen over the past couple of seasons, France will regret losing him to Morocco. The downside for Montpelier is they are still likely to be sellers in most situations so the same improvement might lead him out of Ligue 1 as well.
What To Expect
Last season, in two friendlies at Livestrong in the horrific summer heat, Sporting KC walked away with two draws. Expect something similar here, as both teams are noted for their defensive stinginess. If this becomes a shootout, I will both be alarmed and extremely happy. However, don't expect as wide a mismatch as the earlier MLS friendlies such as Seattle-Chelsea was.