Category Archives: Montreal Impact

Montreal Impact

Montréal Impact Emerge from the Lions’ Den with 3 points

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

After a thoroughly disappointing defeat to Houston Dynamo, Montréal Impact fans were eager to move forward with the next road match, while still nervous that the team would be too fragile to recover from a loss. However, Orlando City had proven to be a comfortable adversary for the Impact since their entry into MLS, and captain Ignacio Piatti had enjoyed scoring 8 goals against them coming into the match, one of his highest tallies against an individual team.

Although de facto right wing starter Harry Novillo had recovered from a late pre-season injury, Orji Okwonkwo was given the start once again as Novillo was not ready to play a full match, and coach Rémi Garde wanted to allow a stable team to build chemistry and rebound from last week’s loss together.

If stability was what Garde sought, his team didn’t initially demonstrate that quality. The first ten minutes of the match in Orlando were reminiscent of last week’s abysmal showing for the Impact, as the Lions pounced while the visitors struggled to find their bearings in the match. Goalkeeper Evan Bush and Lady Luck worked in tandem to allow the Impact to survive an early wave of pressure unscathed. 

The tide turned in the 14th minute, when Samuel Piette launched a long pass toward Saphir Taïder. The Algerian international penetrated the Orlando defense and drifted to the right of Orlando’s 18-yard box as Okwonkwo used his pace to arrive near the penalty spot, where he latched on to Taïder’s cross and punished Orlando’s defensive lapse with a clinical finish the home team sorely lacked.

The Bleu-Blanc-Noir would go on to double their lead directly after OCSC restarted play. Orlando allowed striker Maxi Urruti’s incessant pressing to pay off as he intercepted a weak back pass from a central defender. Goalkeeper Brian Rowe was left with no choice but to sweep Urruti off his feet – however the forward had already passed to Piatti, who needed no further invitation to find the back of the net.

This one-two punch had clearly taken some wind out of Orlando’s sails, as the Impact would go on to enjoy comfortable periods of possession for large stretches of the game. After Okwonkwo had run himself ragged, Novillo made his Impact début, and quickly offered an assist to Piatti off yet another Orlando defensive error in the 80th minute. With his 10th goal against Orlando, Piatti is now the player who has scored the most goals against the men in purple.

Unfortunately for all involved, the match was poorly officiated by a referee new to the league, who allowed a series of increasingly physical challenges to go unsanctioned. It became clear as the clock wound down that tension levels were rising, and there had been several minor clashes between players over the course of the match. Dom Dwyer, who had scored a late consolation goal for Orlando, is a notorious instigator regardless of his opponent.

After a stoppage in play deep in injury time where Novillo received treatment following another robust tackle, Orlando City received the ball. Rather than respecting fair play and returning the ball to a goalkeeper, Orlando elected to go on the attack. This move was poorly received by the Impact, and led to a mass confrontation at the next stoppage in play. Central defender Zakaria Diallo allowed himself to be baited by Dwyer, and received a red card for shoving him in the head. 

OCSC coach James O’Connor would go on to apologize to the Impact in his post-game press conference, as even he felt his team had conducted themselves poorly when ignoring fair play. All in all though, the whole incident was just a blip on the radar in an otherwise satisfying away win.

This match marks the halfway point of the Impact’s six-game road trip, and it is an uphill battle from here until the home opener. The Impact will have next week off as many players depart to represent their countries, and will subsequently enter Blue Hell as they visit Sporting Kansas City on March 30th

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Montreal Impact Suffocated Yet Again In Houston

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

In all of their visits to BBVA Compass Stadium to take on the Houston Dynamo, Montréal Impact have only ever taken one point. If there are matches on the calendar that fans circle with great anticipation, a trip to Houston is not one of them. However, with the positive atmosphere surrounding the team this year, surely the tide was going to change?

Not to be the case.

Time and again, outside factors such as the stifling humidity, artificial turf, and a lack of ambiance in the stadium have been blamed for the Impact’s consistently poor performances in Texas. And perhaps the display the team demonstrated on the field was a result of any combination of those factors.

Ignacio Piatti, the man who makes the sun rise and set for the Impact, was smothered by defenders any time he got a whiff of the ball, remaining well-shackled and unable to contribute to the game. Passes were errant, attacking creativity lacked, and the Impact conceded a late goal – and all the points – after switching off as Houston ramped the intensity up a notch. Over the course of 90 minutes, there was only one team in the match, the team who had played a mid-week game nonetheless.

 As Rémi Garde put forth an unchanged starting eleven from San Jose, fans were pleased to see that the players would get a chance to build off the chemistry that had been building since pre-season. But as many passes went to the opposition and communication seemed non-existent, that chemistry seemed to evaporate before our eyes. Perhaps the Impact need to remain sequestered in a hotel all season in order to maintain continuity?

The highlight of the match for Impact fans was undoubtedly Saphir Taïder’s second goal in as many matches, nearly a carbon copy of his goal in San Jose – the Algerian snuck behind the defense to finish a deep pass, this time off a brilliant cross from Micheal Azira. 

Houston would go on to score immediately after play restarted, before laying a second-half siege to the Impact’s half, much as San Jose did in the previous match.

As the long road trip continues, fans will hope that fatigue does not get the better of the Bleu-Blanc-Noir, as it seemed to do in Houston. Additionally, it looks as though we are in for another year of “Nacho-dependence,”  this writer is off to light a candle for our maestro.

The Impact will take to the road once again, this time visiting Orlando City SC, on Saturday, March 16.

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Montréal Impact Start 2019 Campaign on the Right Foot (or the Left Foot)

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

Montréal Impact had enjoyed a string of promising pre-season results, going undefeated in all matches with only one goal conceded. However, anyone who has ever watched MLS knows that pre-season performances are not totally indicative of how a team’s competitive campaign will go. Regardless, as the team spent 40 long days toiling under the hot Florida sun to get in game shape and strengthen the chemistry that saw them finish the 2018 season on a strong note, a quiet optimism began to buzz around the IMFC fanbase.

The Impact’s schedule will undoubtedly test their mettle, as they begin with six consecutive road games while waiting for the Canadian winter to end. Last year, their road form was far from sparkling. A mere 11 points picked up in away games does not exactly inspire confidence when a team needs to start the season on a strong note. However, this is Rémi Garde’s second year in charge, there has been less upheaval in the squad than last year, and several interesting players have come in, notably Maxi UrrutiHarry Novillo, and Zakaria Diallo (who was signed for the 2018 season, but did not play due to an ACL injury).

2019’s first official lineup saw Diallo, Urruti, and Bologna loanee Orji Okwonkwo make their débuts for the Bleu-Blanc-Noir. Fans’ confidence in the Impact’s improvements were short-lived, as a disjointed start saw San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Magnus Eriksson open the scoring in the 11th minute after Victor Cabrera mistimed a tackle and left an ocean of space at the top of the 18-yard box. Similar to their 2018 road record, the Impact were a dismal 1-13-2 after conceding the first goal last season, so having to face adversity this early in the season, after having enjoyed a comfortable pre-season was far from an ideal situation.

Thankfully, the goal proved a sufficient wakeup call for the Impact, as they snapped into life. In a feat that has been notoriously rare, team MVP Ignacio Piatti scored on a corner played short, allowing the Argentinian maestro to do what he does best—dribble around defenders to unleash a bullet into the back of the net with his magical left foot.

As halftime neared, the Impact were well in control of the match, often enjoying controlled spells of possession—a clear departure from the “sit deep and absorb pressure” tactic employed last season. Diallo had roamed forward from his central defender position to pick up the ball in San Jose’s half and was given an ocean of space to parade forward and launch a mouth-watering low cross to Saphir Taïder who dropped off the shoulder of his defender to give the Impact the lead. There remains some debate as to whether or not the Algerian was offside at the time of the cross. However, neither the linesman nor VAR signaled, and the goal was good.

The second half saw a return to old tactics, as the Impact bunkered and allowed the Earthquakes to essentially lay siege to their half. Evan Bush was called into action on a few instances, but the defensive line held tight. The match ended 2-1, with the Impact emerging victorious from San Jose, much to the delight of players and fans alike.

There are still 5 road games left before the home opener on April 13th. But, as the Impact opened their season on such a positive note, there is a lot more optimism around this long road trip. Next, the Impact again travel to hostile ground—Houston Dynamo—to play on Saturday, March 9th.

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New year, new hope: Montréal Impact reveals 2019 squad and jersey

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

On Friday evening, the Montréal Impact invited season ticket holders to their annual season launch event at the MTelus Theatre. About 1,500 of the most fervent fans were on site to participate in a Q&A session with the new president, Kevin Gilmore, head coach, Rémi Garde, and administrative director, Patrick Leduc. They also became the first to see the Impact’s 2019 home kit in person, as the entire team (including trialists) were presented to the public.

Due to a nasty case of living in another province, I was unable to attend, but the team was good enough to provide a live stream of the event. All of the team’s supporter groups had a strong contingent in attendance, and at several intervals, they could be heard singing and chanting in support of le Bleu-Blanc-Noir.

During the Q&A session, the technical staff tackled questions submitted by fans. It goes without saying that none of the questions were particularly difficult, and none of the responses were particularly revealing, as this is meant to be a feel-good event to get folks excited about the upcoming season.

A question of particular interest was whether it is worth the effort to develop players through our academy if the coach doesn’t use them. This question was tackled by both Leduc and Garde, who stated that they have been working together to identify how best to integrate homegrown talent into the squad. Garde’s experience at Olympique Lyonnais will prove helpful – but local players simply will not be inserted into the lineup for the sake of playing them.

After a truly disappointing Canadian Championship performance in 2018, Garde promised he is taking the competition (the only way for a Canadian team to access the CONCACAF Champions’ League) extremely seriously this year. Garde also feels that this year’s squad is more ambitious and more confident than the team with which he entered the 2018 season and that they are much closer to their first MLS Cup this year.

In order to get fans excited, and to get them talking about the team, it was high time to introduce the 2019 Montréal Impact squad and the new kit. Each player was announced individually by match commentator Frédéric Lord, and they walked through the crowd to high-fives and raucous cheers from their adoring public.

The previous home jersey, full blue and black stripes with a blue back was so universally admired by Montréal fans and league rivals alike, it would undoubtedly be hard to top.

The new look continues the beloved stripe motif, but it fades to black at the bottom of the jersey. Additionally, the back is black instead of blue. The quadrant which harkens to the flag of Montréal is at the top of the back, filled in with the IMFC letters in lieu of the symbols of the town. 1642 Montréal’s iconic North Star bell, known throughout the league, is also present on the jersey.

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Montreal Impact’s biggest winter signing won’t set foot on the field

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb 

As the team flew to Florida to begin training camp, Montréal Impact fans were feeling rather blasé about the team’s offseason transfers. Then news broke on Monday evening. Team owner/president Joey Saputo was calling a press conference for the following morning. The topic was quickly revealed to be that industry veteran Kevin Gilmore would be announced as Saputo’s presidential successor. That revelation was met with utter incredulity – Saputo hand over the keys to his beloved team? Never!

Joey Saputo. Image: @impactmontreal

As is usually the case with Impact news, the leaked info was confirmed. In a 45-minute conference, Saputo explained that as the league and the team were evolving at a much faster rate than he could have imagined, he simply could not devote the time needed to properly run the Impact’s organization. It turned out that Gilmore had begun working with the team as an independent consultant in November 2018, and his impressive sports management resumé coupled with his knowledge of the region planted the seed in Saputo’s mind that this could be the right person to take over as president.

Nobody can doubt how much Joey Saputo loves the team he founded in 1993. The team he brought to MLS in 2012, which reached the CONCACAF Champions League Final in 2015 and played one of the most thrilling Eastern Conference Final matchups in the history of MLS a year later. Joey Saputo is the man who brought Didier Drogba to Montréal, which allowed me to fall in love with the Impact. He was clearly ready to invest in establishing soccer’s presence in a fairly-monopolized Montréal sports landscape, with the construction of Stade Saputo and a state-of-the-art training facility. After a thoroughly disappointing 2017 season, Joey Saputo sought out an elite coaching staff in Rémi Garde, Joël Bats and their assistants.

However, repeated criticism of Saputo’s leadership was that his passion could cloud his judgment when it came to the business side of the team. In 2018, when the team was in the midst of a winless May, Saputo mused aloud in a radio interview about selling beloved captain Nacho Piatti. He regularly spoke of the team as being in a small market and having to live in the shadow of the Montreal Canadiens. He would lament the lack of sell-out games in the post-Drogba era while offering little in the way of solutions to bring new fans to the stadium and often alienating supporter groups.

In his statement, Kevin Gilmore addressed several of the Impact’s, and by extension Saputo’s, shortcomings head-on. “We need to understand that we play in a top market and we need to start acting like a big-market team,” he asserted. Gilmore called for wiser spending rather than splashing larger sums of cash. He recognized that MLS has a much younger viewing audience than the other big North American leagues and that the team needed to target those younger fans, to engage with them more. He firmly believes there are enough fans in the city to fill Stade Saputo every week, but the team needs to work much harder to bring them to the stadium. Gilmore feels that the multi-cultural, multi-lingual team represents the city and that the Impact need not cower in the shadow of the Habs, but seize their own identity and stand up on their own. 

Kevin Gilmore. Image: @impactmontreal

How do the fans feel? In his first conference, Gilmore spoke the words we wanted to hear. He has a long history in the sports business, and although he is educated as a lawyer, he speaks like a salesman. In particular, his desire to bring people to the stadium and to come to love the team, rather than attracting people who are looking for a casual outing thrilled the IMFC community. Gilmore cited the importance of highlighting Piatti, who is an eternally underrated star of the league, because if we have one of the league’s best players – the whole city needs to know it.

Gilmore also stated that his previous experiences in the NHL showed him that the administration should not involve themselves with the technical aspects of a team. Given Saputo’s reputation for over-management, it will be a breath of fresh air to know that Rémi Garde and his staff can operate without the president adding his two cents.

As a millennial myself and one of Gilmore’s targets, his insight into what we are looking for as a generation – experiences, engagement, and authenticity – inspired confidence that he is looking to target a younger generation, who will hopefully remain faithful to the stadium longer. Although it is too early for Gilmore to provide specific examples of the changes he will effect, and some difficult decisions made, the long-term future of the club looks far more exciting than it did just a week ago.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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Montréal Impact keep the Playoff dream alive with win over TFC

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Result: 2-0 Victory vs TFC

It was a matchday like no other. Rivals Toronto FC were visiting Stade Saputo looking to put the final nail in the coffin of Montréal Impact’s playoff hopes. Elsewhere, DC United were officially claiming the fifth of six playoff spots, while Columbus Crew continued a tie game with Orlando SC, a team which boasted the most porous defense in the league.

With TFC eliminated from playoff contention several weeks ago, the match was more about pride than anything, as most had written off the Impact’s playoff hopes, even if mathematically the Bleu-Blanc-Noir still had a chance to make the cut. With Victor Vazquez and Jozy Altidore sidelined through injury, TFC still brought out a strong lineup, looking to play spoiler to their enemy.

For the home side, left back Daniel Lovitz, whose offensive spark contributed to a goal and five assists on the season, found himself injured and unavailable for selection. Jukka Raitala entered the starting lineup at left back and Rudy Camacho, whose previous performances against nimble opponents like Sebastian Giovinco or Lucho Acosta were nightmarish, returned to central defense.

Regardless of what would happen in the match, the supporter groups 1642 Montréal and Ultras de Montréal were ready to stand behind their team with season finale tifo displays.

With the Impact having firmly established their identity as a counterattacking team, it comes as no surprise that TFC enjoyed the lion’s share of ball possession during long stretches of the first half. Evan Bush was called into action as once again Camacho allowed Giovinco to slip behind him, but the Italian’s one-on-one shot lacked any conviction and Bush smothered the ball. In the 35th minute, the Impact had the ball in the back of the net, but following a VAR consultation, referee Baldomero Toledo ruled the goal offside and the teams retreated to the locker rooms in a deadlock.

Following the break, it was clear that Rémi Garde’s request for more aggressivity from his team was heard loud and clear. Several times the Impact hit TFC on the counter, but both captain Ignacio Piatti and striker Quincy Amarikwa wasted their opportunities, and keeper Alex Bono made a heroic save on a header from Saphir Taïder.

Finally, in the 71st minute, VAR was called into action again. Substitute defender Eriq Zavaleta, who has long struggled when facing Piatti, was found to have pulled on the Argentinean’s jersey inside the TFC box, and this time VAR ruled in the home team’s favour. “Nacho” stepped up to the spot and calmly converted the shot.

In the 88th minute, the Impact sealed a 14th victory of the season when Piatti beat a defender and the goalkeeper to casually slot the ball into an empty net, marking his 16th goal of the season. Unbeknownst to the team, results elsewhere allowed the Impact to remain in the playoff race, with Orlando claiming their first win in over a dozen matches in the last seconds to leave Columbus only 2 points above the Impact and that vital red line.

With the last home game of the season in the books, it was only fitting that coach Garde, whose adaptation to the team and the league was painful but has now blossomed into something beautiful, rang the North Star Bell to celebrate the victory.

Since the playoffs are still in reach, the Impact must travel to New England Revolution and claim a Decision Day victory, while hoping Columbus lose or draw in their match versus Minnesota United. No matter how the 2018 campaign ends, to still be in the playoff discussion after such a dismal start speaks volumes to how the team has flourished over the course of the season and fans are waiting for that do-or-die match with baited breath.

Featured image: Montréal Impact

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Impact keep a foot in the playoff race with win over Crew

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Saturday, October 6: 3-0 Win

The city of Montréal was rather bereft of hope following the Impact’s humiliating road defeat to hotly pursuing DC United. As the week leading up to the match versus Columbus Crew wore on, and Ignacio Piatti remained absent from training, fans grew increasingly morose at the thought of facing another powerful conference rival without their most crucial player.

As the previous match had been a “must win” for the Impact, and they had quite spectacularly bottled it, it became all the more important to take 3 points from the Crew.

Lo and behold, despite serious injury concerns, Piatti donned the captain’s armband and started the match. However, a sharp increase in his passing rate indicated that he was not at 100% fitness.

Given the massacre the Bleu-Blanc-Noir suffered in their previous match, it was impossible to say if they were going to use that result as fuel to perform, or if the players were still licking their wounds. As Columbus called Evan Bush into action a few times early in the match, optimism was hard to come by.

However, as the Impact began to find their bearings in the game, Alejandro Silva’s cross was deflected off a Crew defender’s arm. Referee Alan Kelly elected to consult VAR and awarded a penalty to the Impact. De facto penalty striker Piatti handed the ball off to Saphir Taïder and the Algerian scored his seventh goal of the season.

Momentum then swung in favour of the Impact, as in the last moments of the first half, Silva channeled his inner Piatti and made light of the 5 defenders surrounding him to finish a brilliant individual effort with his fifth goal of the season.

Columbus undoubtedly saw more of the ball in the second half of the game, and they penetrated Montréal’s defense more than coach Rémi Garde probably liked. However, Bush came up massive every time and equalled a personal record to claim his 9th clean sheet with 9 saves, several of which required great reflexes from the keeper.

To put a cherry on the sundae, Piatti’s dedication to the team despite his injury was rewarded when he scored off a classic counter-attack in the 59th minute to seal the scoreline at 3-0.

For the Impact, a convincing win at home against a very well-coached team of great quality was the perfect response to their humiliation in DC. However, DC United remain a mere 2 points behind the Impact with 2 games in hand, meaning the Impact have to hope that DC drop points in their remaining matches while performing flawlessly themselves.

Their next test will undoubtedly be a difficult one – recently eliminated rivals Toronto FC will be in town on October 21st, and they’ll certainly be keen to spoil Montréal’s playoff hopes.

Featured image: Montréal Impact

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Montréal Impact Fall Short In a Big Match (Yet Again)

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Saturday, September 29: 5-0 Loss

Being a fan of the Montréal Impact is like riding a roller coaster. The team can send supporters to the highest peaks of joy and excitement, as evidenced during their 2016 playoff run, but they can also cause fans to plummet into the pits of despair and disappointment, such as with last night’s non-performance against DC United.

The match was billed as “the match of the season” by many, and it was more than just a six-point match with enormous weight in the playoff race. It was an opportunity for the Impact to rise to the occasion and obtain a result in a game of crucial importance.

The humiliating 5-0 scoreline — the worst loss in Montréal’s MLS existence — indicates that once again, the Impact failed to seize their chance to put a nail in DC’s playoff coffin. Instead, the Bleu-Blanc-Noir have likely dug their own grave. Over and over, the defense was carved open like a knife through hot butter, while the visiting offense could only put 4 of their 25(!) shots on target.

As the DC goals racked up, the Impact players looked more defeated and downright disinterested in the match. Coach Rémi Garde seemed to know the match was lost, as team talisman Ignacio Piatti — whose night was truly disastrous — was substituted off for youngster Mathieu Choinière. At the end, many viewers of the match felt like they had lost two hours of their lives that they’d never get back.

To make matters more disturbing, this is not the first time in Impact history – or this season – that the Montréalais have failed to “show up” for an important match. We can recently look back to the 3-1 defeat to bitter rivals Toronto FC in late August, where the tactics were also somewhat to blame. I am inclined to also cite the 1-0 loss to a ten-man LA Galaxy back in May, which was the Impact’s first sell-out of the season and a great occasion to win over new fans.

It would be cruel to ignore the tremendous improvements that the Bleu-Blanc-Noir have experienced under Garde and his coaching staff. Piatti has become more generous with the ball, Evan Bush has set a personal record with 117 saves this season and, generally speaking, the defense is significantly more organized than in previous seasons.

It would be equally unfair to forget that the Impact began the season in a bind, with the early loss of defender Zakaria Diallo, meaning they used an international spot and a hefty portion of the salary budget for his substitute Rod Fanni. As well, interesting and dynamic as he has been, Quincy Amarikwa was a last-minute addition to the squad after French striker Jimmy Briand backed out at the last second.

Regardless of the changes in personnel, the team has remained in the playoff picture for many weeks, yet this most recent disastrous performance shows that the spectre of the big-game mentality continues to haunt the Impact.

Is this problem something a manager can take charge of, or does it require the more specialized touch of a sports psychologist? As different managers have come and gone, and the Impact have continued to let huge results slip from their grasp, the answer seems to lie beyond the man at the helm of the ship.

With their playoff fate now well and truly out of their hands, it is time to see what mettle the Impact have within to end their season, starting when they host Columbus Crew next Sunday.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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Montréal Impact claim a vital road win in Battle of the Bells

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Saturday, September 15: 1-4 Win

It’s that time of year. The race to the playoffs is in full swing, and it’s getting tighter with each passing match. Montréal Impact had firmly ensconced themselves into the sixth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot after a truly complete home win against first-placed (at the time) New York Red Bulls. It was now time to take the road to face the fifth-placed Philadelphia Union in one of the many six-point matches left of the season. Travels had not been kind to Montréal this year, as they had collected a mere 8 points on the road going into the City of Brotherly Love.

Rémi Garde led with what many believe to be the strongest starting eleven presented this season. There was only one change from the 3-0 win over the Red Bulls, with Rudy Camacho returning to central defense as Jukka Raitala took the bench. Quincy Amarikwa’s physicality and dynamism, two qualities which had been sorely missing up front, was rewarded with another start for the league veteran.

After a tepid start, the Impact were caught sleeping on a corner, as defender Austin Trusty got the jump on his marker and scored his first career goal. Following the goal, it seemed as though the Impact had deflated, much as had been the case every time they had trailed in the scoreline this season. Indeed, Montréal had only collected one point after going behind in the scoring. As the Union enjoyed extended periods of possession, it appeared as though the Impact were going to let three crucial points slip through their fingers.

However, fans of the Bleu-Blanc-Noir would be pleasantly surprised. Following a turnover in possession, Ignacio Piatti and Alejandro Silva led a swift counterattack. So many times Silva had created a fabulous chance that was saved or missed the target, yet this time he kept his composure against onrushing keeper Andre Blake and his low shot ran into Philly’s net. Shortly before halftime, Saphir Taïder chased a rebound off Blake’s save, and poked it home to seize the lead.

Things would only get better in the second half. As the Union found it increasingly difficult to penetrate Montréal’s defense, Amarikwa’s tireless efforts were compensated with his first goal as an Impact player as he bundled home a cross from Daniel Lovitz. To put the cherry on the sundae, Silva and Piatti capped the night with yet another blistering counterattack from the top of Montréal’s 18-yard box, and Silva chipped Blake to notch his second goal of the night.

It was a classic Montréal Impact win, with a tight defense and a clinical counter allowing the Impact to depart Philadelphia with the comfort of knowing they will end the weekend in sixth place, and that the North Star Bell > the Liberty Bell.

Additionally, results elsewhere in the Eastern Conference have favoured the Impact, with the pursuing DC United and New England Revolution only picking up draws in their respective games. As the Impact keep their eyes fixed on the next match versus NYCFC, fans and pundits are bound to continue to keep one very interested eye on the standings.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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The rivalry match that wasn’t for IMFC

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Saturday, August 25: 3-1 Loss

At long last, Rivalry Week was upon us. This is a time Montréal Impact fans and Toronto FC fans alike look to on the calendar upon its release, because the feeling is fierce. Beyond the two clubs, beyond sport as a whole, a cultural rivalry between Montréal and Toronto has simmered for countless years. To say that rivalry matches are special ones is an enormous understatement.

As Toronto spent a large part of the season on their heels, with the Impact the higher-placed team in the Eastern Conference, fans looked toward the road match with particular delight. BMO Field is notably hostile to Montréal, with the Impact having won there only twice, but what better time was there to put a nail in the coffin of a rival’s playoff hopes?

On Saturday, Rémi Garde presented his lineup an hour before the match, and it was a baffling one. Ignacio Piatti was placed as the central striker, with Saphir Taïder shifting from central midfield to the left wing of the typical 4-3-3. I stared stupefied at such a lineup wondering if Garde was a genius or a madman. Our two Designated Players were moved out of position, and the weakened midfield core would have a Herculean task ahead of them to try and dictate play.

The fact that the lineup did not work was evident from the start. TFC’s 4-4-2 diamond populated the midfield, and it was too much for Piette, Azira and Krolicki to gain any control over play. The Impact were clearly out-of-sync, and lingered too long in making crucial decisions which led to turnovers. Their lethargic start – yet another one! – was punished by 3 TFC goals within 30 minutes of play. It was as though any play a Bleu-Blanc-Noir player attempted was the wrong one.

Shortly after the home team took a 3-0 lead, Alejandro Silva scored a wonderful counterattack goal to light a glimmer of hope that Montréal could find a way back into the match. The end of the first half would see the Impact hit the woodwork on a free kick, and have two goals disallowed for offside.

Quincy Amarikwa came on for the thoroughly overwhelmed Ken Krolicki at the start of the second half, allowing Taïder to move into a more effective role, and the Impact laid siege to the Toronto half of the field for the final 45 minutes. However, no Impact player was able to make the difference. A succession of corner kicks went unclaimed, and for the goals that needed to be scored, disturbingly few balls entered the 18-yard box, as players elected to dither around the edges until they turned over possession.

In the wake of the defeat, blame is being thrown around all over the place. Piatti had a truly disastrous evening, one of his worst in recent memory – how did he remain out there for 90 minutes? The Impact players were incredibly slow and made poor decision after poor decision – what was going through their heads? Once again, the Impact’s lack of a proper striker was glaringly obvious – how did the ball get dropped on such a crucial role to fill during the transfer window?

This match was of enormous importance, both for team pride and in the playoff race – why did Garde choose such a match to experiment with his lineup? We likely won’t get answers to many of these questions, certainly none that will satisfy Impact fans.

The Impact’s fate is essentially out of their hands now, even though they are 4 points clear of the playoff line. The teams chasing them all have at least two games in hand, as do fifth-placed Philadelphia. The Impact now have to contend with a venerable New York Red Bulls side next Saturday, who will have even less mercy for an ill-prepared team with a shaky mentality.

Featured image: @torontofc

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