By Eve // @evejulia9
It’s not a tune fans haven’t heard before: Set piece defending. However, we’ve been subjected to seeing the Impact’s fatal flaw on display every single match for the past month, bar none. Saturday’s 3-3 tie versus FC Dallas was no exception.
After taking a 3-0 lead into the 60th minute, the Impact would go on to capitulate. They conceded the game-tying goal in the 90th minute, as yet another player went unmarked and rose above a flat-footed Bleu-Blanc-Noir while goalkeeper Evan Bush was helpless on his line.
It feels as though this season’s team is a dam threatening to burst. A leak springs early, in the form of a barren offense in Nacho Piatti’s absence, and the team manages to plug that hole by compensating with a tightened-up defense. A new crack appears in the form of player conduct. The troublemakers are sent off during the summer transfer window. Now, after a blissful early-season reprieve from late-game set-piece meltdowns, this is the latest hole we are waiting to see the team paper over. Since the Gold Cup break, the Impact have conceded 22 goals in 9 MLS matches, with only two wins in that stretch.
The Impact have been susceptible to lackadaisical corner-kick defense for as long as I’ve been following them. Across four seasons and two different coaches, it’s been one of the few constants in the team. But the propensity to concede goals from set-piece opportunities is not really what you want to associate with your team. With Saturday’s result, the Impact officially became the worst team in the league with regard to set-piece defense: 19 of the 50 goals they’ve conceded to date have come from such a situation.
How can they fix this problem? I don’t know; tactical training is far from my area of expertise. Having only two central defenders healthy surely does not help. Having a goalkeeper struggling with commanding his area doesn’t help. Being in the midst of the most congested month yet of the schedule probably doesn’t help. But as the Impact have entered what appears to be the race to avoid the playoffs for a third consecutive year, something’s got to give.
It’s a bit late in the season for a coaching change, and any additional defenders would have to come as free agents since the transfer window is now closed. It seems like the best we can hope for is for more of the most important players to get healthy — and have their game time well-managed to ensure they stay healthy — and count on some conference rivals to drop points.
I wish I could have spent this space singing the praises of Lassi Lappalainen, who scored his second Impact brace in our most recent match. But I also wish I had seen my team keep its focus long enough to finish a match, and I felt that was a more important issue to address, as have so many others in Impact community. This isn’t a position I’d expected them to be in even ten matches ago. It’s not a feeling I savour, but I suppose it’s all part of the wild ride that is supporting the Montréal Impact.
Next up, what better for a team in a tailspin than a trip to their bitter rival’s stadium, where they’ve only won twice? Toronto FC host the Impact on Saturday, August 24th. If ever there were a moment for the team to come together and have a statement performance … it’s now.
Featured image: Montreal Impact Facebook
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