All posts by evejpowell

Montréal Impact keep on rolling against the tremulous San Jose Earthquakes

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve Powell // @evejulia9

Saturday, July 14, 2018: 2-0 Win

After crashing down to Earth with a sobering 3-0 loss away to NYCFC, the message from coaches and players alike was “We want to bounce back.” Saturday’s match against San Jose Earthquakes, who are currently bottom of the Western Conference standings provided a perfect opportunity for the team to accomplish their goal.

After rotating the squad for the mid-week loss, Rémi Garde elected to field his A-team at home. Rudy Camacho, Ken Krolicki, Alejandro Silva, Matteo Mancosu and Chris Duvall returned to the starting lineup. A notable absentee was Rod Fanni, who missed out through illness. Some fans were concerned about whether a central defensive pairing of Camacho and Jukka Raitala would prove as effective as Camacho-Fanni, and there was only one way to find out.

The Impact started the match brightly, with some fantastic give-and-go play between Mancosu, Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taïder leading to the Algerian’s fourth goal of the season. The chemistry between Taïder and Piatti was perhaps best evidenced by the first-touch passing between the two, the confidence that the other would be there to receive the ball. Mancosu, despite his abysmal goal tally this season, also deserves credit for his placement on the left side of the opposing 18-yard box when Piatti moved to the centre of the attacking group, as he was, therefore, ready to pass the ball to Piatti who laid the ball off for Taïder.

In the celebration of that goal, Piatti and Taïder came together to hold up an Impact jersey — Marco Donadel’s #33. Donadel was waived by the Impact a few weeks ago, and this match was the last he would be attending before his rumoured return to Italy. Piatti and Taïder chose that moment to recognize the significant role he had played in the team during his three and a half seasons with the Bleu-Blanc-Noir.

Although ‘keeper Evan Bush was called into action at the end of the half, the real talking point of the game would not be the Impact’s superior collective performance.

Instead, all eyes outside of Montréal are on the implosion taking place – very publicly – within the Earthquakes’ team. Two early substitutions, Anibal Godoy and then his replacement Fatai Alashe, perfectly encapsulated the level of discord with that team and likely made the Impact’s win all the easier. The frustrated body language of the visiting players on the pitch betrayed some deep internal problems which undoubtedly contribute to their current position in the standings.

Despite Piatti scoring another goal to end the match on a positive note, with Alejandro Silva notching yet another assist, arguably the biggest highlight of the match would be when the referee tackled Samuel Piette to the ground.

Thankfully, it will take more than that to take out the defensive midfielder! Somehow, the referee escaped a booking for his blatant attempt to play the man and not the ball!

I had the immense pleasure of being present at Stade Saputo this match as well, in Section 132 with the Ultras de Montréal 2002. The capo was on fire, and got several other sections involved in chanting for the team! And woe be unto you if they caught you taking a break.

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Stade Saputo. Image: Eve Powell/mlsfemale

The Impact are about to face a lot of Western competition, with Vancouver Whitecaps visiting Stade Saputo for the first leg of the Canadian Championship semi-final on Wednesday, July 18th. On Saturday, July 21st, the Impact will attempt to improve their MLS road record and take on a stingy Portland Timbers defense in the Rose City. The road trip will wrap up with the second leg of Canadian Championship semi-final at BC Place on Wednesday, July 25th.

Featured image of Samuel Piette: @impactmontreal

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

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Montreal Impact Test Their Depth … and Fail in NYC

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve Powell // @evejulia9

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Montréal Impact were coming into an incredibly busy July schedule on a hot streak, with four consecutive wins and 5 in 6 matches. With the impending load of 6 matches in 17 days, eventually Rémi Garde was going to have to rotate the team, whose lack of depth he had previously deplored. The first opportunity to see several players make their return – or their début, as in the case of Shamit Shome – to the starting lineup.

The lineup also featured 5 Canadian players (Piette, Shome, Jackson-Hamel, Edwards and Petrasso) which is of interest as the upcoming Canadian Championship competition requires a minimum of 3 Canadian players in the starting lineup for each team. Whether their presence was preparation for those matches, simple rotation, or a chance for some bench players to compete for more playing time, only coach Garde can say.

What anyone who watched that match can say is that none of the players on the pitch rose to the occasion. The Bleu-Blanc-Noir failed to register a single shot on target and capitulated in the second half to lose 3-0 to a heavily rotated New York City FC.

Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

Although none of the Canadians returning to the lineup will want to remember their performances, two notable disappointments were Homegrown Player Anthony Jackson-Hamel and Raheem Edwards. Jackson-Hamel had made a name for himself last season as a supersub who could come off the bench and score goals late into games. With starting striker Matteo Mancosu’s aversion to scoring goals continuing into its second season, Jackson-Hamel was given a chance to claim a position which is very much up for grabs. Meanwhile, Edwards had lost his starting position on the right wing when Alejandro Silva‘s form picked up, and also had his moment to prove his worth.

Both players had previously been publicly criticized for a lack of effort during training earlier this season. Initially, it seemed, they responded to criticism with strong performances in a 4-2 win over New England Revolution. However, in the pair’s first start since May, fans were subjected to watching them play at a jog, with little effort put into winning 50/50 balls and a distinct lack of creativity and tactical awareness. Coach Garde was equally unimpressed, as Jackson-Hamel and Edwards were both substituted in the 59th minute.

On a final note of interest, owner Joey Saputo was present at the match. Rémi Garde will hope that the man holding the purse-strings appreciated the opportunity to witness first-hand the difference in quality of players on Montréal’s bench and that of NYCFC.

On Saturday, July 14th, the Impact return home to face San Jose Earthquakes, a team whose quality has also been deplored … by one of their players. It should be interesting to see how the two squads crying for an injection of talent face off.

Featured image of Samuel Piette: @impactmontreal

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

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Montreal Impact Just Can’t Shake that Winning Feeling

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve Powell // @evejulia9

The Montreal Impact came into their match against the Colorado Rapids riding a three-game winning streak, and had set a new team record of over 340 minutes played without conceding a goal. For a team that was 3-10-0 just a few matches earlier, and that had flirted with the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, things were really coming together for Rémi Garde and his troops.

Alejandro Silva delivered a pair of assists on a Saphir Taïder brace that would seal Colorado’s fate, as the Impact picked up a fourth consecutive win with a dominant performance over a struggling team. However, the clean sheet streak broke at 420 minutes when Colorado picked up a sloppy consolation goal near the end of the match. Considering that it was just six short weeks ago that the Impact, who marked 7 hours kept off the scoresheet themselves, it seems a bit out-of-place to complain about conceding a goal!

Although Taïder would reap the glory as he scored the goals that sealed the 3 points, it would be wrong to ignore the enormous contribution that Silva provided to the team. As is sometimes the case with new players, Silva’s adaptation to the team and the league didn’t happen overnight. As Coach Garde experimented, Silva played in several roles, including right back and the #10 spot, with limited success.

However, he has enjoyed a run of matches starting in his preferred role of right winger. The consistency has allowed fans to discover the dynamic player who they watched in highlight videos upon his signing, but he hadn’t scored a goal despite numerous chances.

In the match prior to the Colorado game, Ignacio Piatti allowed Silva to take a penalty shot. Crossing the threshold of scoring his first goal for the club clearly further bolstered the Uruguayan’s confidence as he took his performance to a new level in the victory over the Rapids, not only with his two assists. Silva’s defensive contributions, vision for open space, and dribbling kept the Colorado players busy and lightened the workload for his teammates.

This match was a special one, not just because the Bleu-Blanc-Noir are finally stringing together performances resembling a competitive soccer team, but because I have made my annual pilgrimage to Stade Saputo. For those of you who are unaware, I am a long-distance fan, as I live in another province.

For this match, I joined one of the supporter groups. 1642 Montréal occupy the end of the stadium with the North Star Bell, which rings for Impact goals and victories. I can’t thank everyone in Section 114 enough for their fabulous welcome and for the ambiance they contributed to the stadium! 90+ minutes of singing, cheering and jumping were enjoyed!

July is a busy month for the Impact, as there are 7 games on the schedule with a combination of 5 MLS matches and 2 Canadian Championship matches to play. The sequence of midweek matches begins as Rémi Garde learns that sometimes in MLS, we play soccer in a baseball stadium as the Impact visit NYCFC on Wednesday, July 11th.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

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June Brings a Month of Highs Following the Impact’s Struggles

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve Powell // @evejulia9

It has been a roller coaster start to the summer for the Montréal Impact. Fans are used to highs and lows with this team, and as the month of May wound to a close, the Impact were in the depths of one of those lows. They had suffered four straight shut-out losses, Ignacio Piatti was in the midst of his longest goal drought ever at 5 games without a contribution, and players and coaches were losing their tempers at training.

The World Cup break was still a few weeks away, but couldn’t come soon enough for fans who were tired of watching their team be the whipping boys of the league.

With Albert Elis and the free-scoring Houston Dynamo in town, fans were prepared to be the victims of a firing squad, yet the Impact pulled out a win – and their third clean sheet of the season!

The following match saw the Impact make the long journey to face the other Texas team, FC Dallas, who have generally enjoyed great success against the Bleu-Blanc-Noir. An own goal and a penalty saw the Impact wilt in the Lone Star State’s heat to the tune of 2-0.

There wasn’t much time to sulk over the loss though, as the Impact faced a mid-week game against Orlando City SC before the World Cup break. Orlando were also in tailspin, as they came into the match suffering from 5 straight losses. On a rainy Wednesday night, few anticipated much of a spectacle. However, for a rare time this season, luck shone on the Impact. They received an early penalty that broke Piatti’s dry spell, benefitted from an own goal, and sealed the result with a rare late goal, also from Piatti.

Following the international break, the Impact took to the road again to take on Orlando for the second consecutive match, this time in the Lions’ den. A road game in hot weather rarely spelled means anything good for the Impact. Yet Orlando were still reeling from tallying another loss and were now without a head coach to top it off, following Jason Kreis’ dismissal after the match in Montréal.

Another own goal from OCSC followed by Piatti’s third goal in two matches saw the Impact take a comfortable 2-0 result home, although Orlando is clearly a shadow of the team who took the start of the season by storm.

The team has finally begun to creep toward the playoff line, and fans are finding positives to take from matches once again. Although players have finally begun to play as more of a cohesive unit – for each other, instead of just with each other – two players have stood head and shoulders above their teammates in the recent uptick in form.

Rod Fanni’s cool head and clean play as a defender has seen many opposition attacks snuffed out before goalkeeper Evan Bush need worry. Some are also crediting Fanni’s level-headed presence with the improved decision-making fellow central defender Rudy Camacho has demonstrated.

Samuel Piette has endeared himself to fans beyond being a native Québecois by controlling the midfield and intercepting passes like it’s the easiest job in the world.

Although the outcome of this season is still up in the air, there are diamonds in the rough within the team.

Next up: A true test of whether this recent positive form is an anomaly or a step forward – Sporting KC, unbeaten in 7 matches, visit Stade Saputo on Saturday, June 30th.

Featured image: 

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

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Evan Bush: A Rare Bright Spot in a Dark Period for the Impact

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve Powell // @evejulia9

As I sat down to write yet another post about how a dispirited Montréal Impact threw away yet another match, I rolled my eyes and glanced at my nearby poster. It’s of a quote from Harry Potter: “Happiness can be found in even the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Right now, the situation faced by the Bleu-Blanc-Noir can certainly be described as “the darkest of times.” This season has been chalked up by most as a transition season in part of a larger project. But as fans watch the team play disjointed, passionless soccer and as the owner promises more changes that fans will not necessarily like are on the horizon, it feels like a project that has gone way off the track.

Most will look back on this season, or at least this part of it, as a relative failure. However, while the team is not playing poorly as a whole, several players have made important progress that is being overshadowed by the collective performances. Instead of wallowing in despair, I am choosing to spend my time shining a spotlight on a player who has truly come into his own and stepped up this season: Evan Bush.

The choice of my subject should come as little surprise to Impact fans, but others probably have doubts about how a keeper can be applauded when his team has conceded the most goals in the league (by a healthy margin). This year’s Montréal Impact have allowed 29 goals so far this season, after 13 games. Last year, they allowed double that after the total of 34 games played. They are on track to break a team record for most goals allowed in a season.

However, Bush also leads the league in shots saved – with an overwhelming 64 in a mere 13 games! Bush joined the Impact in 2011, the year before they made the jump to MLS.

That year, he won the Golden Glove for most saves in the NASL. He has also won the same award in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League, the year that the Impact made it to the final. He has racked up over 150 appearances across all competitions, but his MLS performances have rarely garnered as much attention as they have this season.

Much credit for Bush’s improvements can possibly be attributed to the arrival of legendary French goalkeeping coach Joel Bats. Bats not only represented the French national team as a player, but was also a mainstay of Olympique de Lyon, training their keepers (who would become representatives of Les Bleus) for 17 years before joining Rémi Garde’s coaching staff.

Over the years, Bush has been primarily criticized for his hesitation to assert his place in his 18-yard box and his distribution. Since the arrival of Bats, Impact fans have been able to witness Bush coming off his line with increasing frequency and displaying confidence in himself, regardless of the team’s performance.

Bush has also stepped up as a leader figure as his career with Montréal has progressed. That quality is more crucial than ever this season, as he is one of the few mainstays in the team following the massive 2018 preseason overhaul. Never afraid to address the media and well spoken, Bush’s presence is a steady rock in the stormy season the Montréal Impact are facing.

Featured image: Boston Herald

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

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The Montréal Impact and the No Good, Very Bad Week

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve Powell // @evejulia9

Results: 1-0 Loss @ Chicago Fire, 0-2 Loss vs Philadelphia Union

Hot on the heels of a soul-cleansing 4-2 victory over the New England Revolution, the Montréal Impact traveled to Chicago as part of a busy week. After the emphatic display, fans looked forward to the next performance eagerly, especially as Chicago and Philadelphia are two Eastern Conference foes against whom it is critical to gain points.

Rémi Garde presented a 4-3-3 line-up featuring the attacking trio who had put 4 past New England, and many were starting to feel hopeful with Rod Fanni and Michael Petrasso returning to health.

Unfortunately, an inability to capitalize on promising chances, a defender’s successful stifling of Nacho Piatti and an unfortunate deflection contributed to what would be an unsuccessful day at the office for Montréal. However, there was little time to dwell on that loss. Philadelphia Union were in town on Saturday, a team who had not scored a road goal in 2018 and had not won in their last 16 road games. It was time to make a statement and begin to make a fortress out of Stade Saputo!

The lineup and formation presented for the match vs the Union were identical to the ones from mid-week – no squad rotation had been implemented. Perhaps this was when alarm bells should have begun to ring, but kickoff an hour later made it all too evident that no amount of rotation would have saved the Impact from the humiliating 90 minutes that were to come.

Individual errors would be to blame for both goals conceded, but it was the collective performance that was most shocking. The majority of Montréal players on the pitch displayed varying combinations of lethargy, sloppiness, apathy, and confusion. The Union had a much more disciplined side, and despite having played midweek themselves, they came out fresher and more prepared to claim their deserved 3 points.

Although Philadelphia’s performance was simply superior in nearly all aspects, their goals highlight some of the most glaring problems on the Impact backline. First, simple marking was forgotten as lone striker Corey Burke was entitled to a free header to put Philly on the scoreboard just before halftime. Jukka Raitala tried to get back to his man before the damage was done, but like most of his team’s efforts last week, it was simply too little, too late.

Near the end of the game, when both teams were down to 10 men, there was some sort of miscommunication on the backline, as Chris Duvall made an ill-advised horizontal pass near the goal line. Raitala allowed that pass to bobble over his foot, and Haris Medunjanin had no problem seizing the loose ball and sealing the Impact’s miserable fate.

This season has been defined by many, including myself, as a transitional year. And that’s perfectly fine. What is most frustrating is that the promising tactical and technical improvements seen in the early games of the season have disappeared from the Impact’s play and the team who began the season on an encouraging note is barely a ghost of a memory. The drastic regression in performances over the past several weeks is deeply concerning. If this is meant to be a “reconstruction” … is the Montreal Impact in the demolition phase right now?

Next up: The Impact will celebrate their 25th anniversary with a Monday game versus the LA Galaxy, who are suffering their own defensive issues, on Monday, May 21st. To create more of a headache, Impact find themselves back to square one on the injury front – there is only one healthy central defender available! They will also have to figure out a solution to fill Daniel Lovitz’s absence as he serves his red card suspension. There are sure to be goals aplenty…

Featured image courtesy: impactmontreal.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

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