All posts by evejulia9

Montréal Impact End Season with More Questions than Answers

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

For the third year in a row, a disappointing Montréal Impact season has come to an end on the last day of the regular MLS season. A shiny Canadian Championship is a band-aid over the bullet wound that is a third consecutive year with no playoffs, and with a totally mysterious roster status.

As it was finally confirmed on the last day, the Montréal Impact at least chose to go out in style, beating New York Red Bulls emphatically 3-0 in front of Stade Saputo. Most notably at the end of the match, 34-year-old talisman, Ignacio Piatti, was substituted off, and his teammates gathered to embrace him, as chants of his name rang round the field. Was this because Piatti is leaving, despite a club option for 2020 existing on his contract?

Nobody knows. Those who might have expected the post-mortem press conference held two days later to shed some light on Piatti’s situation, and those of many other players in the last year of their contracts, would be disappointed. In an event that rather summed up the season, expectations were swiftly dashed. Wilmer Cabrera, who had coached a whopping 9 matches with the team, and who does not know if he will return next year, was sent out alone to face the media. Team administration was nowhere to be found.

Players answered questions in groups of three, but they didn’t seem particularly prepared for the day either, several venting their frustrations against former coach Rémi Garde and wondering aloud whether they need to start packing their bags. To cap off the bizarre conference, moments before Piatti was expected to appear, Impact PR announced he had left the building after he was told the team will exercise their option on his contract.

Image credit: Montreal Impact

It was truly a microcosm of a season, and the season was a microcosm of an era within the organization. Poor planning, reactionary decision-making, and emotional investment have led the Impact to regularly mire in mediocrity, often being so close to achieving success and punching with the heavyweights, but left just short by bad signings, hasty firings, and a total lack of structure within the organization.

It finally seems that some of these issues are being handled. Owner Joey Saputo, who adores his club — for better or worse, stepped back this year to allow now-president Kevin Gilmore to make business decisions. Walter Sabbatini was hired in Italy to oversee both Bologna FC and the Impact’s sporting structures. Finally, Belgian Olivier Renard joined as technical director in late September. The task of releasing, re-signing, and searching for new players will fall to him. As he is new to the club and MLS, one can logically afford him a little more time to get acquainted with the roster and its rules.

That being said, it will be more than difficult for fans to swallow another “transition” year. Last season, Rémi Garde was slow to adapt to MLS, and some blamed this year’s shortcomings on a change in administrative structure, which led to Gilmore’s firing of Garde with only 7 MLS games left in the season and hasty hiring of coach Cabrera. The downward trend in performances and the accumulation of disappointment at certain sporting and business decisions have left relations between the Impact and even its most diehard fans at an all-time low, with last week’s shambolic press conference leaving many feeling insulted by their club. It goes without saying that as the Impact return to the CCL for the first time since 2015, the onus is on the organization to make a strong statement in the off-season.

Nobody knows if icons Piatti and Samuel Piette will be back, nor if the Impact will rely on a consistently out-of-form striker (Maxi Urruti in 2019, Matteo Mancosu for the two seasons prior) for a fourth year in a row. Will veteran goalkeeper Evan Bush retain his number one position, or will Clément Diop be re-signed to unseat him? The status of beloved defenders Bacary Sagna and Rod Fanni, both of whom are in their late 30’s, is a mystery. These are but a few of the many players whose situations are up in the air. However, one gets the feeling that the Bleu-Blanc-Noir who step on to the pitch for that first match in 2020 will be a far different team from what we saw this year.

Featured image: @ImpactMontreal

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Sweet, Sweet Silverware: Montréal Impact Claim 2019 Canadian Championship

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

It is no secret that the Montréal Impact’s season has derailed rather spectacularly since my arrival in the city. As the team has dropped to 9th in the Eastern Conference, the level of cynicism and disengagement had reached an all-time high at Stade Saputo.

However, in Canada, there’s more to life than just the MLS playoffs. There’s a trophy known as the Voyageurs Cup. Winning the trophy is the only way a Canadian team can enter the CONCACAF Champions’ League, and the Cup was created by fans of the Canadian National team in 2002. Since then, the Impact had won the trophy nine times, leading to some of the most iconic moments in the club’s history.

With the inaugural season of the Canadian Premier League underway for the 2019 edition of the competition, the format was expanded. To reach the competition, the Bleu-Blanc-Noir had to face York 9 FC and Cavalry FC in order to take on reigning champs, and bitter enemy, Toronto FC.

Lo and behold, the Impact found themselves in a two-legged final competition once again with their number-one rivals. As the disappointing performances mounted in MLS competition and turbulence continued to swirl around the team, most fans entered into the first leg with a feeling of, “I hope Toronto doesn’t humiliate us too badly.”

Sometimes it’s almost impossible to explain how a match plays out like it does. One team has the momentum, the firepower, and the luck on their side. But sometimes the other just wants it that much more.

The first leg in Montréal proved that the Bleu-Blanc-Noir still had some fire left in them. Despite many of the players having not been part of the team for longer than a season, winning the trophy meant a lot. Ignacio Piatti scored a blistering goal, Clément Diop stood on his head, and Victor Cabrera earned back the pride he had lost in the 2016 Eastern Conference Final by confidently shutting down Jozy Altidore to enter the return leg with a 1-0 advantage.

I’ve probably said it a hundred times – BMO Field is not kind to the Impact. They didn’t win a match in MLS there until 2016, and regardless of the competition, further victories have been few and far between. With the likes of Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo ready to play 90 minutes against an Impact missing Saphir Taïder through yellow card suspension, feelings were mixed about how the match would play out. Montréal had choked twice in recent history against their bitter rivals in that hostile territory, but the fragile hope that comes only in a cup final was running deep among the fans.

This is where I have to be honest: I didn’t watch very much of the match. Given that TFC absolutely had to score a goal, and the Impact had to at least protect a lead, the home team essentially laid siege to the Impact’s defensive third and dominated possession. As it turns out, I don’t have the mental fortitude to handle that level of tension, and I spent large stretches of the match with my hands over my eyes. The drama was far from over though, as a series of controversies late in the second half led my nerves to reach a crescendo.

As Maxi Urruti played a cross to Clément Bayiha, defender Auro Jr. blocked the cross … doing his best impression of Diego Maradona’s Hand of God. Neither the ref or the linesman saw the blatant penalty, and within moments, Tsubusa Endoh scored, leaving the times tied at 1-1 cumulatively. Shortly before full time, Chris Mavinga would be sent off for fouling Lassi Lappalainen as he was through on goal.

Regulation time ended thusly, and it was straight to a penalty shootout. It has been some time since the Impact found themselves in such a situation, and TFC had struggled in several of their own penalty shootouts, so it was impossible to predict the outcome.

Fate smiled down on one team. TFC’s second shooter, Altidore, struck the crossbar, Diop saved Patrick Mullins’ rushed effort, and Jonathan Osorio hit the post, as Bojan, Daniel Lovitz and Rudy Camacho scored each of their penalties, leading the Montréal Impact to a 3-1 shootout victory and their first Canadian Championship since 2014.

How exciting is this moment if you’re associated with the Bleu-Blanc-Noir? The team celebrated long into the night, crashing coach Wilmer Cabrera’s press conference with champagne showers. The 250+ fans who traveled to Toronto shared in celebrations in the stadium, at the team bus, and undoubtedly on the journey home. In my case, I had to take a personal day off of work to soak in the joy and welcome the team back to the airport.

It’s a beautiful trophy, and it’s the first Montréal has won since I began following the team. It brings the promise of Champions’ League soccer in 2020 even if 2019 ends up being a season to forget. Most of all, it’s tangible proof that even if the Impact are down, never count them out.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same At Montréal Impact

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

How do you even begin to sum up the past ten days if you’re an Impact fan? After a slew of dismal results and worse team performances since the beginning of the summer, the axe fell on Rémi Garde on Wednesday, August 21st. In the same press release that announced Garde’s dismissal, the Impact presented his replacement: Wilmer Cabrera, who himself had been let go by the Houston Dynamo the previous week. Beloved team captain Patrice Bernier was brought back into the first team, this time as an assistant coach.

From L to R: GK coach Remy Vercoutre; asst coaches Patrice Bernier and Wilfried Nancy; and head coach Wilmer Cabrera

There was little time to adjust, as arguably the worst circumstances possible loomed for a new coach to jump in — the Impact’s annual visit to BMO Field, home of Enemy Number One, Toronto FC. Having all but lain down to hand TFC a win at Stade Saputo, would a new coach provide the desired electroshock to wake up a sleepwalking team?

In short, the answer was no. For all of Cabrera’s talk of wanting the team to take risks, some combination of Garde’s old defensive mindset and the lack of belief that come with so many poor results meant that a hesitant Impact allowed their rivals to control the match and overtake them in the playoff race.

As the time wound down before the Impact’s next match against the equally slumping Vancouver Whitecaps, the shakeups in the organization weren’t over. A twenty-six-year fixture, in nearly every role one can hold in a professional sports organization, Nick De Santis left his position as VP of international relations. De Santis had been one of the few constants amid the Impact’s revolving door of coaches and players, so this is a sign that more big changes are coming.

Vancouver came to town, beloved local product Maxime Crépeau was welcomed back to his old stadium, and it looked as though the Impact were finally coming together. Having nearly gone 2-0 down within 25 minutes, the team was saved by Evan Bush’s penalty-save heroics. The team came back to win 2-1 and it felt like there was some life in this side.

But Vancouver is not DC. And although the three points taken that Wednesday were such a relief, it is impossible to deny that Saturday’s match against DC United was a true six-pointer — whoever won this match would likely send the other below the playoff line and could turn a poor summer back into something promising.

Lo and behold, it was not the Impact who saw out Vancouver who took to the field, it was the same team fans had come to dread watching over the course of July and August. Lack of initiative and hopeless defending saw the Bleu-Blanc-Noir concede 3 goals in under 25 minutes, allowing DC to cruise to an effortless win. TV analyst and former player Hassoun Camara was nearly lost for words, and decried a lack of love for the jersey following the match. For all of the team’s shortcomings in the past, we were never left in doubt of their pride in playing for Montréal … Until now.

The level of toxicity in the air is off the charts. Fans have become accustomed to booing at the end of matches — even mid-match as was the case on Saturday — and crowds are dwindling. No member of the organization is safe from scrutiny. From an outside perspective, it seems that in their eighth MLS season, the Impact are still winging it in so many departments, and it feels like the administration is growing more and more out of touch with the supporter community.

Of course in such a period of turbulence. it is hard to feel encouraged or hopeful, particularly when the changes haven’t produced the desired results. We’ve lived through a lot of reactive decision-making and instability up til now with the Impact, but it finally feels like fans’ patience is running out.


Time to see if the team and administration is ready to respond appropriately.

Montreal’s next visitor will be FC Cincinnati, on Saturday, September 14.

Featured image: @ImpactMontreal

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Montréal Impact: Masters of Their Own Downfall

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

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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A Copy-Paste Demoralizing Defeat For the Montréal Impact

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Montréal sports fans are prone to hyperbole. This is no secret, it’s been the truth for a long time. It means we experience the wins as glorious, triumphant victories, and the losses as disparaging, hopeless pitfalls. The Montréal Impact have long been a team whose roller-coaster seasons and inconsistent performances have only fed this tendency. Once again, they have delivered back-to-back performances as different as night and day.

After a July which offered little to cheer for, the Impact ended the month with a thoroughly dominant home win over top-of-the-East Philadelphia Union. Next on the menu, a trip to last-in-the-West Colorado Rapids. Historically, the Rockies haven’t been too friendly to the Impact, but Ignacio Piatti was back, Lassi Lappalainen had a Player of the Week début, and ‘keeper Evan Bush had delivered some spectacular saves. In the spirit of Montréal, optimism was on the menu, regardless of the patterns of the previous month.

Rémi Garde presented an unchanged 4-4-2 formation, which had successfully stymied the Union. This quickly proved not to be the case. Was it altitude? Was it attitude? Unfortunately, all we know is what we saw.

What we saw was a team who hadn’t learned from a wide variety of past mistakes. In 18 previous duels with a certain boogeyman named Kei Kamara, the veteran striker had scored 11 goals against the Bleu-Blanc-Noir. He regularly went unmarked on set pieces and won the vast majority of aerial duels. This led to him scoring a hat-trick in a 6-3 goalfest on Saturday. Kamara even went so far as to win a header on an Impact corner, marking an own goal on the night. His job was made laughably easy by some truly catastrophic attempts by Bush to come off his line. Arguably the “highlight” of the night:

On a night when nobody shone, a harsh light was once again cast upon a team who had been considered a playoff certainty by pundits league-wide just a few short months earlier. We can speculate until the end of time about the source of the Impact’s drastic downturn, which ironically coincides with Piatti’s return to competition. The captain’s return had been lauded as what would be a saving grace to return the Impact to a higher league position.

Yet the team’s problems clearly run deeper than anything one amazing player can solve. We can look at lack of structure, lack of leadership, lack of discipline. We can question the coach’s tactical choices and his relationship with certain players. We can call for changes to the organizational structure and Tweet until our fingers fall off. But at the end of the day, all we can do is watch, cross our fingers, and hang on in this wild ride which will continue until at least summer’s end.

It’s going to a grueling month for the Impact, with 8 matches scheduled between the Canadian Championship and league action. First up, CPL side Cavalry FC visit Stade Saputo on Wednesday, August 7th followed by a trip to the Windy City to take on Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Featured image: Colorado Rapids Facebook

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Papa Piatti Comes Home And Lets the Kids Out to Play

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Saturday, July 27: 4-0 win

After a truly pitiful July, a month marred by poor performances, disgraceful departures and off-pitch antics, the Montréal Impact marked the summer transfer window with a whopping one signing — a twenty-year old loanee from Bologna, Finnish international Lassi Lappalainen. Many said, “Who?”, with reason. But almost as good as a signature, the Impact’s heart and soul, captain Ignacio Piatti returned from a long absence, having participated in only two matches since the month of March.

After starting and scoring the winning penalty in a less-than-inspiring 1-0 victory over CPL side York 9 in the Canadian Championship on Wednesday, the longtime left winger found himself starting his first MLS match since May. However, Piatti did so in the position of second striker while Lappalainen made his début two days after signing with the Bleu-Blanc-Noir.

The young Finn didn’t need very long to make fans remember his name. In the 4th minute, Zachary Brault-Guillard served a delicious pass as Lappalainen cut behind the defense, erasing goalkeeper Andre Blake with a touch before coolly rolling the ball into the back of the net.

Some will see it as lucky that the Impact did not concede an equalizer in the 20 minutes that followed their opening goal. However, that magical feeling that comes with Piatti on the pitch was in the air. Not only had the attack found a spark, everyone stepped their game up, including Evan Bush, who made a series of crucial saves that had been lacking from his form of late. Brault-Guillard was making the most of his match filling in for suspended Bacary Sagna, and Zakaria Diallo returned to the lineup with the flashy interceptions fans had been treated to early in the season.

Not to be outdone, the Impact’s other Bologna loanee, Orji Okwonkwo, made his way to the scoring sheet as he bombed up the right side of the field and was fed a pass by Piatti, which he emphatically struck into the roof of the net. The Impact hadn’t held a two-goal lead at half-time since the third match of the season (one of the few matches Piatti had started).

Most fans hadn’t made it back from half-time when the North Star Bell rung for a third time 12 seconds after the start of the second half. Piatti forced a turnover from the Union’s kickoff, Lappalainen seized the ball and the player who had compared himself to a Fiat revved his engine Ferrari-style to notch his brace.

As I said though, Orji was able to match his teammate, scoring his own brace thanks to an overhead clearance/assist from Maxi Urruti, allowing the Nigerian to turn on his afterburners for half the length of the pitch and finish behind Blake’s far post.

This win felt more like a cleansing than anything. The elements that had been cruelly lacking in recent matches were all present in this match — a spectacle, a whole-team effort, and a clean sheet. This win felt like vintage Impact with spectacular counterattacking goals. Is it risky to bet that Piatti’s return will be enough to return the Impact to playoff contender status? Absolutely. Am I more than excited to find out? Beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Next up: A road trip to the mountains! The Impact will take on Colorado Rapids next Saturday, August 3rd.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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Dissecting the Descent: Impact’s Rough Start to the Summer

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

It was with tremendous joy that I checked in for my one-way flight to Montréal on Friday, June 28th. A longtime dream was coming true, and what better way to celebrate the following day than by watching my team, placed second in the Eastern Conference, with a group of like-minded fans. I watched the Impact lose 2-1 in Atlanta, who have now overtaken them in the standings as the Impact fall to 5th in the East. They are certainly still in playoff contention, but they have now allowed virtually every other team below them to threaten that spot.

Little did I know, that unfortunate late-goal loss in the Peach State would mark the beginning of a winless sequence of 4 thoroughly disappointing matches in 2 different competitions, which has just culminated in an abject 2-0 home defeat to bitter rivals Toronto FC.

The Impact had a difficult start to the season, playing exclusively on the road until well into April. But the team handled most of those matches well, and were considered to be playoff participants as they were highly placed in a wide-open Eastern Conference even after handling two-thirds of their away matches so early in the season.

When you take into account that the Impact had done so in the absence of Ignacio Piatti, and despite the non-performances of several key acquisitions, it was a truly heroic feat. But now, as the Impact find themselves in a downward spiral, the good vibes of earlier months have evaporated.

Fans are frustrated and worried, but many are also jaded. We’ve been here before. We’ve watched the team shoot themselves in the foot by losing ‘should-win’ games, and by neglecting to sign strong reinforcement players.

This was the time that the team began to come together last year as coach Rémi Garde had adapted to his team and the league, but now it seems they are falling apart. There seems to be no solution in sight, and it is becoming virtually impossible to drum up something positive to say amongst supporters.

A road trip to Columbus Crew – a team who have been in poor form themselves – may be just what the doctor ordered for the Bleu-Blanc-Noir. This is another ‘should-win’ match, that has also become a ‘must-win’ based on recent form … Let’s see what the Impact do with that opportunity.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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Certainly not a Defensive Spectacle

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Montreal v Minnesota: 2-3

At long last, it was time for my homecoming to Stade Saputo. Your friendly neighborhood MLSFemale reporter was excited to return to Montréal for the remainder of the season … to watch the beautiful game and to see some goals!

But I should have been careful what I wished for. A red-hot Minnesota United team were in town, and they had no shortage of goals in their boots, but Montréal Impact’s offense had been sputtering along since Ignacio Piatti’s injury.

Anthony Jackson-Hamel was given a rare start, as other attacking options Maxi Urruti and Harry Novillo had failed to tally up goals. He didn’t take long to get off the mark, scoring the opening goal in the 27th second.

However, for as much as the Loons’ defense had been caught napping, Montréal would prove just as guilty. In his return from Gold Cup action, Samuel Piette played a rare miscued pass, forcing a turnover that couldn’t have been more costly — Mason Toye was essentially free on goal, and equalized.

In the 13th minute came yet another goal, as Rudy Camacho bundled home from Saphir Taïder‘s corner to score his first Bleu-Blanc-Noir goal and put the home team back ahead 2-1.

Yet the match was far from over. On a night when the defense was not up to par, another costly turnover sent Ethan Finlay free in front of Evan Bush, who came out to meet him. The two players’ bodies came together, and referee Alan Kelly awarded a penalty. The call was upheld after a VAR consultation, and Finlay converted to equalize once again as boos rained down from the stands.

It would go from bad to worse in the second half. As the Impact had gotten off to a quick start earlier, Minnesota were not to be outdone, and Toye notched his second goal, pulling his team ahead 3-2. It would prove to be the game-winning goal, but the controversy was not over.

In the 52nd minute, Taïder’s cross hit a Minnesota defender on the elbow, and as the team and fans implored Kelly to consult VAR again, he was having none of it. Assistant coach Robert Duverne was ejected for his reaction to the incident.

Montréal continued to pepper the Minnesota goal area with shots and crosses, but to no avail. Visiting keeper Vito Mannone was called on to make several excellent saves, yet at the end, the Impact were unable to make up for a sequence of disappointing defensive mistakes.

Now Montréal must shift gears, as they are to travel to York 9 FC of the Canadian Premier League in the quarter-final round of the Canadian Championship competition on Wednesday. In MLS competition, they return to Stade Saputo on Saturday, July 13th for a match that has been circled on everyone’s calendar … versus the much-loathed Toronto FC.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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Orji of Beautiful Goals Sees Impact Defeat Timbers

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

After 3 long weeks off for some much-needed rest and recovery during the Gold Cup, the Montréal Impact were back in action Wednesday night at Stade Saputo. Although the break had allowed several players to recover from injury and return to the lineup, the Impact were still short 2 players on the bench. Visiting Portland Timbers were in a similar situation, as they’d done a full squad rotation and had not even brought a full team.

As Orji Okwonkwo and Bacary Sagna returned following injury absences, there remained several question marks around the Bleu-Blanc-Noir. How rusty would the team be? How would they adjust to a 3-4-3 formation, a departure from the usual 4-3-3? Would the players returning from injury be fit enough to contribute meaningfully?

The Impact wasted no time in affirming their desire to create scoring chances. Having referred to the offensive quality as “sterile” or “non-existent” at several points throughout the season, it was truly a breath of fresh air to watch the team set up camp in the attacking third. Okwonkwo and Sagna were notably effective, combining with a chemistry that made it look as though they had played together for months.

After a littany of near misses, Sagna reacted quickly to intercept a pass, deftly sending Okwonkwo behind the defense in the 28th minute. The Nigerian striker put on the afterburners to find himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, and made no mistake, thumping the ball into the roof of the net.

The Impact started the second half a little lethargically, and were made to pay when the Timbers floated in a free kick that Tomas Cocechny headed home to tie the match at 1-1 in the 53rd minute. Montréal promptly woke up and began to play with the intensity they showed in the first half. They were rewarded with the team’s best goal of the season so far, when Victor Cabrera sought out captain Saphir Taïder. Taïder hooked the pass back to Okwonkwo who, from the top of the box, struck the ball on the volley mid-turn, rocketing it into the top corner to score a screamer of a match-winner.

Although the match was very pleasing to watch from a Montréal perspective, especially given how light the squad remains, this 2-1 result should also be taken with a grain of salt. Portland’s approach with a fully rotated squad signified that they were willing to let this match go. Winning a home match is essential, but there will be far stiffer competition to come, and certainly before many Impact players have returned to the lineup.

In the spirit of the condensed schedule, Montréal are off to Mercedes Benz Stadium, where they’ll take on reigning champions Atlanta United who are missing a few of their own key players, but still a tremendously strong team. Yet if the Impact show up with the same hunger that they demonstrated versus the Timbers, anything is possible!

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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Midterm Report Card: Montréal Impact

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

As many of you may not know, I’m a teacher by day. Here in the Great White North, we have reached the end of the school year, so it’s time to hand out report cards to the kids before I can kick back and spend my summer at Stade Saputo.

The spirit of the season has inspired me to give a report card to the team at this halfway point in the the season. In lieu of giving individual grades, players will be divided into 3 categories: Exceeding Expectations, Making the Grade, More Effort Required. Players who have featured in fewer than 5 matches/500 minutes will be exempt from grading as there is an insufficient body of work to assess due to excessive absence. (#teachertalk).


Exceeding Expectations

Samuel Piette — I doubt the Bulldog from Repentigny expected to become the de facto captain for the Impact in Nacho Piatti’s extended absence. However, he has represented everything a team captain should embody: strong work ethic, leaving it all on the pitch, keeping a cool head, and being a shining ambassador for the club.

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1/3 played. So far so good, but hungry for more.

A post shared by Samuel Piette (@samuelpiette) on

Zakaria Diallo — The central defender had spent the entirety of the 2018 season sidelined by a torn ACL, so expectations for him may have been as simple as “stay healthy.” He has done just that and his aerial prowess has proven crucial as the Impact defend set pieces.

Omar Browne — This shock signing screamed of desperation as Piatti disappeared from the lineup. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, many wondered if he was even worth the International Spot the Impact had to buy to sign Browne. We only had a very small sample size to base his performances on before coming to the team, but his contributions, especially in a sterile offense, have been a breath of fresh air.

Shamit Shome — What a surprise Shome’s rise to Starting XI status has been this season! Signed as a 2017 second-round Superdraft pick, Shome had largely been ignored by 2 Impact coaches until April. The injury-ravaged squad allowed him a series of starts, which the central midfield seized with aplomb. His vision for a pass makes up for a lack of pure technique.

Zachary Brault-Guillard — Get out your chequebook, Joey Saputo! The Lyon loanee is a modern fullback in every sense of the word. Fast, young, hungry, keen to contribute to the attacking phase of play, ZBG has been a more than adequate backup to Sagna, from whom he is undoubtedly learning a great deal.


Making the Grade

Saphir Taïder — The Algerian DP can be the best player on the pitch, or he can be a hindrance to the team. Taïder lacks the consistency he played with last season, and continued to play through an injury for several weeks. The team’s final match before the Gold Cup break, a 2-1 win over Seattle Sounders, where he scored both goals, was probably Taïder’s best performance of the season. Here’s hoping the break allows him the rest and recovery to return to his best self.

Victor Cabrera — Cabrera has made a regular return to the starting XI this season alongside Diallo. He is still known for the risky tackles. When they pay off, he looks like an All-Star player. When they don’t, his teammates are left in hot water. Maybe it’s a different pairing, maybe it’s just luck, but Cabrera has acquitted himself admirably thus far.

Micheal Azira — Having been bumped from the starting XI by Shome’s more offensive qualities, Azira has proven to be a serviceable, if unremarkable, substitute/rotation player.

Orji Okwonkwo — It remains to be seen if Okwonkwo is best suited to a winger or a central striker role, as the team’s needs have kept him on the wings for the beginning of the season. Okwonkwo’s technique and speed have impressed so far, but he’s been sidelined a few times by injury, and we’d like to see him stay healthy.

Bacary Sagna — What the veteran lacks in stamina, he makes up for with cool decision making. Having had a revolving door of partners on the right side of the pitch, Sagna has done his best to develop chemistry with whoever he’s paired with. However, he’s been a victim of the travel-heavy start to the condensed season and is out injured.

Jukka Raitala — The Finnish army knife continues to slot in wherever needed. Rarely looking uncomfortable, Raitala does not make showy tackles when simpler work does the trick.

Evan Bush — Bush stood on his head last season, setting a team record for saves, and a personal record for shutouts. He hasn’t been as rock-steady so far, but is still proving his worth as a veteran in the squad.


Struggling with their Tasks††

Harry Novillo — I don’t think much needs to be said here. Novillo was signed on Rémi Garde’s promise that, although he has much ability, his attitude and off-pitch behaviour were what had led Novillo to the Malaysian second division — but he’s changed! Turns out that might not be the case … Frequently injured or ill, Novillo has had little chance to showcase his abilities, and Garde himself has said the player still needs to demonstrate more professionalism.

Maxi Urruti — It seems cruel to classify Urruti as a player who isn’t doing enough. He runs his guts out without fail every match. However, he’s a striker with only one goal this season (a penalty), and who still looks a bit lost in the box. After 2 seasons of toothless strikers, Impact fans are antsy for something more clinical.

Daniel Lovitz — Nicknamed “Marcelovitz” last season, Daniel Lovitz earned his first USMNT call-up in the January camp. Unfortunately, he returned a shadow of the overlapping, attack-minded player we saw previously. He has played a far more conservative game thus far, and seems to have had the confidence drained out of him.


As I always tell concerned parents at our conferences, this is just a progress report, not a definitive grading! There is still plenty of time for the players who have disappointed so far to improve. Here’s hoping that they rise to the challenge!

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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