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.
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.
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.
New York City Football Club seems to be at a crossroads now with three games ahead in tight succession between Saturday and August 24th. The talk amongst fans is how many points is reasonable to expect from these matches and where the season will go from there.
I don’t like to jinx things but…
Despite NYCFCs drop in the rankings after Sunday’s game, I’m not concerned. New York City still has 3 games in hand with 23 played while Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia and Atlanta have played 26 and 25 respectively.If NYCFC can keep its act together in the next three matches, important points can be gained and they can climb up the table.
Sunday’s match versus Atlanta United in “Atlan-turf” ended with a 2-1 loss, with momentum and possession clearly with the home squad.It was a ticky-tacky match with a lot of contact, simulation, and aggression.
NYCFC head coach Dome Torrent stated after the match that “You have to be brave to playAtlanta” and it did appear that the team was intimidated by the former champions. Perhaps it was the uncertainty about the fitness of midfielder Maxi Moralez and striker Héber but City did not play with confidence.
Nevertheless, a home field Atlanta is theoretically supposed to win.They consistently draw a huge crowd, are on an upward swing with their season and are very accustomed to playing on artificial turf.
New York City travels to face FC Cincinnati on 8/17
It’s no secret that FC Cincy sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.Is this a potential trap game?With Maxi Moralez perhaps not at 100%, Dome Torrent will may keep him rested and play him only if needed.NYCFC should completely dominate FC Cincinnati but Dome may be playing to ensure everyone is healthy to face…
Columbus Crew at home on 8/21
Columbus has not had a great season but it has very talented players and they are capable of slaying giants.(See their win over Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.) Victory is not a foregone conclusion and City will need to balance strong defending of Gyasi Zardes and Pedro Santos while playing the tight possession-centric style that has served them well.
RBNY at home on 8/24
We need to talk about the strange voodoo powers that RBNY seems to have over NYCFC.City faces them year in and year out and it seems that NYC either gets completely trounced or barely squeaks by. (We also see this in the western conference with LAFC versus LA Galaxy.LAFC can have the best record in the league but just can’t beat the Galaxy.)
There are two ways to look at this game: Everyone is fit and prepared to go all in and get a win, nomatter how many limbs are left on the field or the team plays for a draw, keeping most players from getting injured and look ahead to the rest of the season.
A lot of the noise in players’ heads will be determined by the results of the two prior games.If they handedly beat Cincinnati and Columbus, I predict that they will walk onto the pitch with chests puffed out and ready to go for a big win. If not, they will play tentatively and will be lucky to gain a point.
On a beautiful summer Saturday night in Columbus, the Columbus Crew took on FC Cincinnati in the first ‘Hell is Real’ match. The name of this new rivalry rose organically from fans in reference to a giant billboard displaying the phrase as you travel between Columbus and Cincinnati on 71. With a Columbus Crew team that has struggled and was just finally finding an improvement in form and a FC Cincy team who has struggled to find its footing in its first year in the MLS, this was a battle of the bottom of the table.
Prior to kickoff, both teams and the stadium as a whole took a moment to honor the victims of recent gun violence in Dayton, Ohio. The stadium held a moment of silence, both teams wore black armbands throughout the match and posed with a #DaytonStrong banner, and both supporters’ groups were silent in the ninth minute of the game.
The Crew rolled out the familiar 4-2-3-1 line up. One of the major differences in this line up compared to those of recent games was that of Connor Maloney at left back. Maloney has been on the team since 2017 but is usually loaned out. However, since left back seems to be the position where the Crew has a plethora of injuries, Maloney got the start.
The Crew’s recent improvement in form seemed to have disappeared in the first 30 minutes of this game–with Cincy getting on the board twice. In the 16′, Darren Mattocks headed in a corner kick without being marked. In the 23′, Emmanuel Ledesma finished off a cross from Roland Lamah that skipped across the field and past both Crew center backs into the backside of the goal.
Before halftime in the 43′, Gyasi Zardes earned a PK as he was fouled by Maikel van der Werff while on the receiving end of a cross from Harrison Afful. Gyasi took and finished the PK pulling the Crew within 1 at halftime.
In the second half, FC Cincy had a few opportunities, but the Crew seemed to control most of the second half. They scored the tying goal in the 62′ off a restart from Afful to Will Trapp. Trapp passed the ball to Pedro Santos who sent a curling ball to the top left corner of the net from outside the 18.
In the 90′, two new players made a gallant attempt to get the Crew the winning goal. Romario Williams sent a ball to Youness Mokhtar, who made his Crew debut subbing in for Luis Diaz in the 54′. Mokhtar sent a beautiful cross to Zardes who at 3 yards out skied the ball into the cross bar and over the open net. In the 93′, David Accam shot the ball into a FC Cincy defender which then again hit the cross bar. In the 99′, the Crew was denied when Zardes hit a header from a Afful cross that was pushed over the net by the Cincy keeper Przemyslaw Tyton. And finally, in the 100′, Zardes was once again denied a header off a Mokhtar corner kick by Tyton.
The game ended in a 2-2 tie with both sets of fans hungry for more. The second part of the ‘Hell is Real’ rivalry will take place on August 25th.
Thoughts on the Team
I said this on Twitter, and I will say it again. This is a game we should have won. However, it was a very fun game to attend. It was a sold out crowd with passionate fans there for both sides. It felt like a playoff match. This will be a fun rivalry.
Outside of David Guzman, I am very happy with the players Caleb Porter has brought in throughout the season. This includes Youness Mokhtar who in his debut looked sharp, hard working, and put in some great crosses.
We need to continue to work on not giving up goals on set pieces–especially corner kicks. Leaving men unmarked during corner kicks is unacceptable and needs to stop. We also need to get more men in the box on the attack. I can’t tell you how many times we’d be crossing in a ball and the only person there was Zardes. This will not get us goals.
Also, we need to play the first half like we play the second half. Porter is making great adjustments at halftime that have resulted in better results recently. However, we need to come out prepared if we really want to be a formidable team in the long run.
Finally, I really believe Caleb Porter needs to figure out what is causing this high number of injuries. With the injuries to Milton Valenzuela, Waylon Francis, and Hector Jimenez, we had to rely on a fourth string defender who struggled. Ever since Steve Tashjian left to work for Gregg Berhalter as the head performance specialist of the USMNT, our injury count has dramatically risen. It’s worth investigating.
Let’s hope we continue to get healthy and continue to improve as we take on Toronto FC this Saturday.
Also, shout out the Columbus Crew groundskeeping crew. The field was flawless.
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.
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.
Audi Field just turned a year old this past week, but one of D.C. United’s most ardent supporters only recently passed through the stadium’s gates for the first time. 96’er and Barra Brava elder, Rob Gillespie, finally made his way home. Affectionately known in the Black-and-Red community as ‘Big Rob’, Gillespie has been a fixture in the D.C. United community for over 20 years, his story woven into the fabric of the Club’s history.
Rob remembers the beginning of D.C. United. A gifted storyteller, he is able to transport his listener back in time with tales of Lot 8 and a young Ben Olsen on the pitch. Now, there are no more tailgates in Lot 8, and Ben Olsen has become United’s head coach who is shaping the future of the team. However, some of the original 96’ers, like Rob, remain; preserving the traditions they can and sharing the past with a new generation of supporters.
Becoming a part of the Barra Brava happened by chance, with a fight between Rob and Barra founder, Oscar Zambrana, resulting in their friendship and him joining the group.
“I actually got into the Barra Brava because Oscar Zambrana, the founder of the Barra Brava and I got into a fight over a misunderstanding.
They were getting hassled by security down at the Barra and I started yelling at the security guys. Oscar mistook me yelling at the security guys for me yelling at the Barra guys. So, he came up and you know, we were both well lubricated at that point. We ended up getting in a little scuffle, which is good on Oscar, because I’m twice his size.
Then some people pulled us apart, and were able to explain to Oscar… I was trying to explain to him while we were fighting… that I was actually on his side in this thing. Then about 10 minutes later he came and grabbed me and dragged me down into the Barra and I sort of stayed ever since.”
Despite his long relationship with the Club and testifying in front of the D.C. City Council in an effort that ultimately helped win the permission for the construction of D.C. United’s new home, Rob had never visited the Stadium at Buzzard Point. A 2012 diagnosis with a rare form of Leukemia upended Rob’s life and he was eventually forced to move out of the area due to the financial strain; leaving the District before Audi Field ever opened its gates.
After years away, Rob finally came home to D.C. and on July 12th he headed to Audi Field to see his team, D.C. United, face off against the New England Revolution.
Rob’s first reaction to seeing Audi Field was one of almost disbelief, as he saw the long-awaited new home of D.C. United. He said, “It was surreal, to turn down third street and see the stadium for the first time. Finally, it was there after all those years.”
Although happy to see a new home for D.C. United realized, Rob felt that something was missing. “I share Bruce Arena’s disappointment that there isn’t more connection with the past. That’s something I noticed right off.” Rob said.
Accompanied by his sister, Aryka, and his son, Marco (named after Bolivian and D.C. legend, Marco Etcheverry), Rob was in for a warm reception. He said, “it was just a great experience, definitely a coming home, even though we live in a new house.”
“It was amazing. It really was. I went to training on Thursday. I’ve been friends with Ben and Dave Kasper for almost 20 years, and I got a good chance to talk to them and see them. Ben made sure all the players came over and said hello. I don’t know most of them, so they introduced themselves. I went up into 130 to see Marco’s aunt and uncle, and that’s where a lot of the old time Screaming Eagles are at and people clapped when I went up there. I was completely overwhelmed by that… It was just one old friend after another.”
While Rob spent the match alongside the Barra Brava and friends he hadn’t seen in years, his family were guests of a local medical practice and D.C. United official oral surgeons, Fairfax Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (FOMS), in their suite. Prior to Rob’s homecoming, FOMS had taken to social media to auction off suite tickets in support of his treatment.
At halftime, Rob made his way to the FOMS suite to check on his son and thank those who had participated in the auction on his behalf. Dave Johnson, play-by-play announcer and legend in the D.C. sports scene, was there to greet him. Having known each other for years, Dave wanted to show his support by spending the match with Rob’s family and some of the community who had come together to support him.
“From day one he has cared about the team and he has cared about others. In short, Rob helped make D.C. United more than a club, he helped make it a family. Through good times and not so good we are always united, and it only adds to the times when we are united with Rob.”
… Dave Johnson, D.C. United play-by-play announcer
D.C. United took a draw against Bruce Arena’s New England Revolution, finishing the match 2-2. Even after dramatics on the pitch worthy of an Oscar (Quincy Amarikwa’s stunning goal, anyone?), the Black-and-Red were unable to secure three points at home.
Ben Olsen, who Gillespie has watched play (and now coach) since he was a young man, came over to greet his old friend.
“Ben came over to see me at the end of the game and, he had tears in his eyes. And he said, ‘God I wanted to get that win for you. I’m so sorry.’ I said, ‘No man, it was great. A great comeback. I’m really happy.’”
“I wasn’t happy about the unpleasant little thing that happened.” Rob said, referring to those who chose that poignant moment to begin chanting ‘Olsen out.’ “I thought it was disrespectful. Ben’s done as much if not more than anyone to build that house, that beautiful stadium that we have… That was a really special time for me and him. I would have rather they said [something] about me than about Ben.” Rob continued, “I don’t think it’s wrong to criticize somebody… There was a place and time for that kind of criticism. But that [the stadium] was not the place. Especially not for someone like Ben.”
Gillespie wasn’t alone in his criticism of those choosing that moment to voice their criticism of D.C. United’s coach. Supporters took the offenders to task on social media, calling them out for their poor timing.
“We always had a rule or a policy within the Barra Brava where we did not boo the team, we didn’t do any of these negative things in the stadium, it wasn’t the place. That was the place for 100% support, win, lose, or draw.”
‘Win Championships, Serve the Community’
Gillespie has long been a part of D.C. United’s legacy to serve the community, participating in everything from cleanups at the Anacostia River, to getting local schools ready for the new school year. He has taken to heart D.C. United’s slogan of ‘win championships, serve the community’.
Rob believes, “There is no better way to get rewards than to give.” After years of serving the community he loves, Gillespie is now the one in need of help.
“My life is a perfect example of that I always tried to give. I never thought I would need any help. Look at me now, I’m still alive in large part because of my relationship with D.C. United. I could not raise the money I need for cancer treatment without that relationship.”
With his out of pocket cancer treatment costs totaling between $3,500-5,000, plus travel, each month, Rob has come to rely on his community – his D.C. United family, to help him raise the money he needs to stay alive. “The people that support me day in and day out, week in and week out, they are D.C. United people.”
While Rob’s cancer is rare and incurable, treatment is helping to extend his life. As a single father, Gillespie is driven to continue fighting cancer to have more time with his son, Marco.
Sometimes, help comes from unexpected places. Just last year, “out of nowhere, Jozy Altidore donated $1,700. This is a player I’ve had no connection with and that just really gave me a little bit of breathing room. It really helped.” Rob said.
Of course, “the ideal situation is that you wouldn’t have to do this at all and could just focus on getting healthy.” Rob has had to conduct constant fundraising since he depleted his $900,000 savings and proceeds from the sale of his house. Gillespie calls the process, “humiliating and extremely stressful.”
Even through the hardships, Rob remains positive and committed to the D.C. United and Barra Brava family, the same family he credits with keeping him alive through their fundraising efforts and sharing his story.
“You can never go wrong by thinking about DC United or the Barra, or the Screaming Eagles, or whomever as a family. You want to show that love and respect and put in that work that you would in a family. Care for your brothers and sisters who are at your side. That’s really important.”
As Rob continues his battle with cancer, the D.C. United family remembers how much he has given to our community, and we all stand with him, united.
Author’s Note: If you would like to support Rob Gillespie’s fight against cancer and help him pay for life extending treatment so he can continue to be with his son, please donate!
PayPal/Venmo: email@example.com or CashApp: $MarcoDad
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.
Wednesday, July 3rd: 4-0 loss Sunday, July 7th: 3-3 draw Sunday, July 13th: 2-1 win
Summertime, and the living is clearly not easy. I’m bogged down with vacation planning, summer reading assignments, extra classes, and upcoming side hustles. And it’s far from smooth sailing for the New York Red Bulls, as well. While getting themselves back to full lineup strength, they have had to deal with midweek games and disciplinary suspensions. In moments, it’s been downright disappointing.
Overall, however, the team is hitting a decent stride. An international roster spot has been opened with Frenchie midfielder Florian Valot getting his green card. The secondary transfer window is now open, and there may be a new signing in their future. (Or not. I’m not in the business of football business.)
You Would End Up Winning
I didn’t like that Michael Amir Murillo was in the starting XI for the midweek clash against the Houston Dynamo. The Panamanian team had just been eliminated from the Gold Cup. He was still in ‘international tournament’ mode. It’s more physical, and the two yellow cards Murillo earned (44′, 83′) proved that. Wasn’t worth it. Houston midfielder Alberth Elis had his way with RBNY, earning an assist and a pair of goals. I’m not one for superstition, but I understand the Red Bulls generally don’t do well in the match nearest Independence Day. It was also a cross-conference match, which softens the blow. Besides, there were bigger obstacles ahead.
We’ll Put You On Your Shelf
Weird how rivalries happen. DC United, one of the original MLS teams along with the Metrostars, is also the original RBNY rival. NYCFC, the regional opponent of the Red Bulls, has made for a sort of rivalry… more on them later. But Atlanta United… man. That rivalry is organic. Atlanta hosted RBNY in their first ever MLS match: they lost. They cannot defeat the Red Bulls in the regular season. And they have yet to score a goal at Red Bull Arena. It’s enough to get under the fuzzy skin of the King Peaches. With another physical bout, Atlanta thought they had FINALLY broken their apparent curse the Sunday after Independence Day. Looks like they had forgotten to factor in Bradley Wright-Phillips. His 93rd minute leveler saved a point for the boys in Red to bring back to New York with them. Not a moment too soon.
We’ve Had Enough
Last season, there were four Hudson River Derby days. It was mentally exhausting, and rather pointless. Sure, NYCFC got themselves a W, but that’s not really enough to elevate the rivalry. Besides, some serious fan issues have overshadowed the boys from the Bronx. There are a good number of stories on that, I have no need to address it. My business is only what’s on the field.
Being on vacation at the time, I was actually reluctant to watch the game. Thanks to notifications on my phone, I felt justified when I saw NYC forward Heber struck first. But ninety-plus minutes is a long time. Daniel Royer not only leveled the game at the end of the first half with a penalty kick, but also provided the go-ahead goal later on to capture the win for the Metro. It was not without controversy; apparently the assistant referee indicated the ball went out for a corner but the center ref overruled him. Midfielder Alex Muyl thew in the ball quickly, standard procedure for the Red Bulls, and Marc Rzatkowski crossed the ball to Royer’s head. Once again, NY is Red.
There is a lot more soccer this summer. I’m looking forward to it. With love, we’ll find a way; just give it time.
After an exceptional run by the USWNT in the World Cup and an improvement in the USMNT during the Gold Cup , it was hard to watch the Crew, in comparison, lose their last three games in seven days. The losses continue to mount and while the Columbus Crew fans are definitely grateful to have a team, that team has been difficult to watch.
On Saturday, June 29, Columbus Crew took on Orlando City. In a game where the Crew dominated possession and limited Orlando to three shots, they still managed to lose the game 2-0. The best part of the game was honoring former club coach and legend Sigi Schmid into the Crew’s Circle of Honor at halftime. The Crew welcomed the Schmid family, watched tributes to Sigi, and presented the family with a beautiful collage of Sigi’s time in Columbus.
Then on Wednesday, July 3, the Crew traveled to Salt Lake City to take on RSL. Due to the three games in seven days, Caleb Porter made some line up changes. He gave JJ Williams the start at forward and Eduardo Sosa an elusive start in midfield; Niko Hansen returned from wherever Porter has been hiding him to play in the midfield, where he was joined by Ricardo Clark; Aboubacar Keita made his MLS debut at center back; and Joe Bendik made a grab for the starting goalkeeper position again.
While Caleb had limited player selection due to injury and call-ups when rotating his squad, it was nice to see some players who have gotten very little to no playing time a chance to prove if they were hungry enough to unseat the struggling starters.
Unfortunately, the Crew were unable to finish any shots, and Sam Johnson finished a beautiful opportunity by beating both Crognale and Keita to a long ball that they both let bounce over their heads.
Returning home this past Saturday, the Crew played the Seattle Sounders. In a game that honestly felt do or die, the Crew couldn’t hold on to an early lead and lost to Seattle 2-1.
With a slight tweak in the line up we have been seeing recently, Josh Williams stepped in at centerback, but JJ Williams and Joe Bendik kept their starting spots from the RSL game, playing forward and keeper respectively.
The Crew had hope for a possible victory after a PK by Pedro Santos in the 13′. However, Nicolas Lodeiro, who spent a lot of time rolling on the grass with dire injuries at MAPFRE Stadium, seemed to be the difference maker for Seattle. He sank a PK in the 56′ and scored a final goal for the Sounders in extra time. At the end of the game, multiple Crew players collapsed to the ground–exhausted from giving it their all, their all not being enough.
Thoughts about the Team:
This is hard. Watching this team is hard. Because I feel for these guys. I believe they are putting everything they can out on the field. If we the fans feel frustrated, then I can’t even imagine how they feel. Do I think part of this is an emotional hangover from the past season and half of off-field drama? Yes, I do.
Did we have a time under Berhalter where we struggled to score goals? Yes, we absolutely did. But in those cases, we typically had a solid defense who minimized the damage the opposition did to us. This is not happening this year. And while I know we are missing Milton Valenzuela to injury, his replacement Waylon Francis is a very good left back. This can not be blamed on injuries.
Is Caleb Porter getting everything out of these guys that he can? I don’t know. I understand we have injuries and call ups, and while I don’t believe every player is elite caliber, I believe they can play a solid game of soccer. However, the adjustment between playing styles has not been as seamless as many thought, including Caleb himself.
However, this isn’t Caleb’s chosen roster. He inherited a roster in January that he had limited time to evaluate and tweak. Do I think a roster blow up is coming? Yes, I do. It’s already started. There will be many players that I will be heartbroken to lose. But to give Caleb a real chance to develop this club into what he thought it could be, it probably has to happen.
With recent additions coming in the transfer window of Eloy Room, keeper of the Curacao National team, Luis Diaz from Club Sport Herediano (Costa Rica) and Romario Williams from Atlanta United, it is hopeful that these players can make an immediate and positive impact for the struggling Crew when they take the field July 13 in a rematch against Orlando.