Tag Archives: Clement Diop

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 State of the Galaxy

Allison Sorrell - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Allison Sorrell // @AJSorrell_

The Fortress Has Been Breached

The fortress of StubHub Center has breached. That isn’t to say we haven’t been struggling at home all season, because it’s absolutely no secret that we have, but before this year, StubHub Center was a place teams feared showing up to.

Contrary to the norm, this season LA Galaxy only has one win at home. When asked why that is, players have been cited as saying that they feel pressured at home because of fans, and can’t perform the way they do on the road because of it.

Whether that is a valid excuse for leaving eighteen points on the table at home this season or not is very much up for discussion. Despite the woes that, lets face it, we’ve all been feeling this season until this past weekend, the Galaxy were unbeaten in ten matches which if you ask me is a pretty good record. That all changed in this weekends California Clasico at San Jose.

Injury Woes

Last weekends lineup, while not what you would expect a starting XI for the Galaxy to look like, wasn’t that far off for what we’ve been looking at this season. The team, as a whole, experiencing an unlucky bout of injuries. Last weekend’s match in San Jose saw the Galaxy missing twelve players due to injury and international call-ups.

This injury list included the team’s current leading goal scorer, Romain Alessandrini, who has notched eight goals and seven assists this season, leading the LA Galaxy in that regard. Other veteran and regular starter injuries, Ashley Cole, Brian Rowe, and Baguio Husidic (out with a broken leg) contribute to the Galaxy’s lack of continuity in a starting XI.

While most of these absences will be short lived enough, for now, the Galaxy are left without a host of their starters, and forced into using a host of homegrown and loaned up Los Dos players to get the job done.

Young Guns Get the Start

The silver lining in the lengthy list of injuries and absences plaguing the Galaxy is the chance for younger players, many of them homegrown players, to get a chance to shine. Players like Jaime Villarreal, Jose Villarreal, Bradford Jamieson IV, and Jack McBean are finally getting the minutes they deserve, and showing up to prove their worth.

This past weekend in San Jose, Jose Villarreal notched a beautiful assist on Jelle Van Damme’s first goal for the LA Galaxy, and has contributed to the team’s recent successes in a way that leads me to believe he deserves a shot at being a regular starter, even after many of the injured players become game fit.

Jack McBean has shown in the past few weeks that he is a competent forward willing and able to finish in the final third, and this young team is eager to continue proving themselves. The issue is, we just weren’t able to pull it off this weekend.

The Clasico Loss

The California Clasico, a historic rivalry between the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes is known to always be a big rivalry and riveting game, and this time, at least the ending, was no different. Let’s face it, the game was a little scrappy. San Jose faced, full strength, an LA Galaxy side full of revolving doors as players have been in and out of rotation due to injury all season (we didn’t even travel with a full eighteen players).

For the most part, this younger Galaxy side held their own. Despite this, there’s something important I think we need to talk about: Clement Diop. I’m not saying he’s a bad keeper, because he isn’t by any means. But there are very few times that a Galaxy keeper scares me coming off of his line as much as Diop does (Does anyone remember Carlo Cudicini? He’s the exception). I believe with growth, he could be a wonderful keeper, but for now, he’s had too many scary moments for my liking.

The first half saw an end of 1-0 Galaxy, and we looked as if we were in the driver’s seat, but the second half tells a different story. Goals in the 75th minute by Chris Wondolowski and 90+3 from Shea Salinas brought San Jose the win. These two goals mark San Jose’s only shots on goal during the entire match. This short handed Galaxy squad pulled out most of the stops, but just couldn’t handle finishing the job.

The Cost of Dissent

The biggest, and probably the most believable part of this match was Van Damme’s temper. It’s no secret he’s… passionate. But two yellow cards, one following a non call of a handball in the box (that could have cost the Galaxy points), and a second following the final whistle after San Jose’s second goal, leave the Galaxy without their captain for the Fourth of July clash against Real Salt Lake.

While Van Damme has apologized for these outbursts via social media, his absence will almost certainly be known against a Real Salt Lake team who has, fortunately, been struggling this season.

With only one win at home all season, the Galaxy have a large task at hand, and hopefully the post game fireworks aren’t the only ones that Galaxy fans see at StubHub Center this Independence Day.

Featured image courtesy: @LAGalaxy

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Orlando City vs. Alessandrini

Allison - LA Galaxy
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Allison Sorrell @AJSorrell_

Saturday, April 15: 2-1 Loss

This is the most fun I’ve had watching an LA Galaxy match all season — and unfortunately it wasn’t all because of LA. If you’re a Galaxy fan, or even end up watching a few Galaxy matches a couple times a season for whatever reason, you know this team can get interesting. From spectaculars by the likes of Robbie Keane in recent years, to savvy playmakers in the midfield like Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho, this team has always been fun to watch, not just during the playoffs, but even during early season away matches like Saturday’s.

Unfortunately this isn’t really the case anymore.

As LA Galaxy fans we’re still getting used to this too — with regular XI staples AJ DeLaGarza and Keane (just to name the biggest losses) departing and new names Joao Pedro, Nathan Smith, Romain Alessandrini, and Jermaine Jones all becoming regular starters and replacements for these fan favorites. Even our coach Bruce Arena, who had an eight year tenure with the club is gone (Now the head coach of the USMNT).

With all of this change it isn’t a surprise that LA fans are a little pessimistic.

Tweets from even diehard Angel City Brigade fans read “ready to lose this game!” Before the match even started. From another fan that’s been here to see this team raise a few trophies, to say those thoughts are completely without cause would be unfair.

With that being said, it’s no secret that Orlando City SC is a good team, especially at home. Cyle Larin is one hell of a dangerous goal scorer, and you know Will Johnson is enough of a hardworking midfielder to keep you busy. With the opening of the new stadium (which I really need to visit this season mind you, it’s beautiful and the atmosphere looks amazing), this Orlando team hasn’t lost a single game at home (this week’s win making them the first team ever to win the first four games at home at a new stadium). This was never going to be an easy match for LA, a team that has notoriously struggled away from home, and in light of circumstances, the match as a whole turned out much better than it could have for LA.

The most notable part of this match lies with Will Johnson’s goal of the week worthy goal in the 9th minute. Watching the match I was more enthralled with how well placed the goal was than how badly our defense fell apart on the corner and subsequent rebound that led to it.

Which leads me to something we need to talk about — Clement Diop. Diop helped lead LA’s USL side LA Galaxy II to 2nd place in the USL in 2015, but he still doesn’t seem ready for MLS play. He’s been caught off his lines and off guard (does anyone remember the loss at Vancouver?) way too many times. Meanwhile, Brian Rowe, who played 31 matches last season is on the bench “coaches decision” being cited. Diop is just too green for the job of starting keeper. If we don’t want to utilize Rowe, we need to find another keeper.

The final, and most important part of this match for any LA Galaxy fan is Alessandrini’s showing. Not even counting his 83rd minute goal, there’s no one on the field right now for the LA Galaxy that can make as much of a difference as he can (he’s had 4 goals in 4 matches) and to build the offense around him would not be a mistake.

LA is just suffering from lack of confidence, direction, and leadership (it took me a few minutes to even remember who the captain is. That should say enough). Only time will tell if Curt Onalfo’s leadership proves a worthy successor of Bruce Arena’s. We have the talent, we’re just not sure what to do with it this early in the season yet. This isn’t the first time LA has started the season off on the wrong foot, and we all know things will come together soon enough. Until then, none of the three points on the table are coming home to LA.

Featured image courtesy of: @LAGalaxy

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