Tag Archives: Eve

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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The Elephant is Out of the Room and Running Wild for the Montréal Impact

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

Montréal’s got some problems. They’ve been bubbling below the surface as the team remained high in the standings in the opening half of the season, but it all feels as though the alarm bells are sounding loudly. Some of these problems are more of the same, and some are new concerns.

Following an abject 3-0 humiliation at the hands of 10th-placed Orlando City SC on Saturday, a glaring light has been shone on the team, from players, to technical staff and the upper management.

Here are but a few of the most pressing matters to address:

Ignacio Piatti will miss 8-12 weeks with a knee injury. The saying goes “No Nacho, No Party” for a reason. If he’s not playing, there’s a good chance the team has to work far harder to score fewer goals than when he is in the side. The logic of relying on a 34-year -old player to play week in, week out in the new condensed schedule format was a risky bet at best, but the team is now stuck between a rock and a hard place, hamstrung financially without much of a draw to the stadium.

As the Montréal Impact are finally enjoying their first homestand of the season, Omar Browne scored a remarkable goal in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake. The goal was remarkable because it was the Impact’s first first-half goal since March 16th. Of course the lack of offensive punch is partially attributed to Piatti’s absence, but it is an issue that must be addressed by the coaching staff … and perhaps the recruitment staff as the secondary transfer window looms.

  • But wait! The contracts that Montréal currently have on their books leave them rather hamstrung when it comes to looking for quality players to improve their squad and help with the ongoing offensive issues. Benchwarmer Rudy Camacho is bringing home a $700K salary. Maxi Urruti, with one goal in 17 matches, is reportedly earning over $1 million. They are but two of several big-money players who are not justifying their salaries.
  • In a salary-cap league, you have to spend your money wisely, especially with an owner who is very much set on not adding a third Designated Player. It feels as though it’s been a good 3 or 4 years that we have to wait for a player’s contract to expire just so the cap space can be freed for someone who hopefully will perform better.

Saturday’s non-performance against Orlando City left many with such a poor taste in their mouths that they’re asking why make the financial and emotional investment in a club that simply doesn’t show up. For those who don’t have the Impact entirely woven into their souls, they still need a certain level of spectacle to justify their commitments. While the results have (sometimes) been there, the show certainly hasn’t, and it seems as though the team who were a solid unit with an “esprit de corps” was but an early-season dream.

Even for those of us who are Bleu-Blanc-Noir through and through, as I watch the heads drop and the arms raised in frustration on the pitch, I have to question my own sanity in continuing to follow this mess of a team.

The Impact have the third match of their homestand on Wednesday, June 6th against Seattle Sounders. Between injuries and international duty, there will not likely be 18 players fit to field.

Featured image: @mlsfemale

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Two 3-0 Results in 5 Days for Montreal Impact

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

Don’t put the Impact down as your favourite to win a match. They’ll probably let you down. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. However, throw hurdles in their midst, neglect their collective mentality, and write them off? They’ll probably steamroll you.

Montréal Impact saw themselves disappoint woefully against an undermanned Philadelphia Union on Saturday, only to turn around and show up just in time to efficiently handle the New England Revolution.

Two 3-0 scorelines. One defeat, one victory.

Of course, the Impact played against two different teams for each match, but it also felt as if a different Impact stepped on the pitch for each match. The Impact’s history at Talen Energy Stadium, as they came into Saturday’s match with a decent record of 2-2-5. Although primary goalscorer Ignacio Piatti is still sidelined by injury, the Union were also without DP Marco Fabián, and starting defender Auston Trusty was suspended. The Impact had just pulled off a rare win without Piatti in their previous match, so it felt as though the stars were aligned in their favour.

Until a team that appeared like 11 strangers in preseason form stepped onto the pitch. Sloppy passes, a preventable penalty, and an accumulation of individual errors from a lethargic Bleu-Blanc-Noir allowed the Union to score what must rank among 3 of the easiest goals in the organization’s history. It was a complete and utter match to forget.

Fast forward to Tuesday when news rolled in that the only two players to score a goal in Piatti’s absence — Saphir Taïder and Harry Novillo — would not be travelling for a midweek game to New England, followed by the news that the Impact would travel to the match a day late due to flight cancellations and it felt as though the sky was falling. New England had been hostile territory to the Impact, where they’d lost all 5 of their matches in the past 3 seasons.

As Wednesday afternoon rolled around, and the Impact still had not arrived in Foxborough, it was as if a wet blanket had been thrown onto the Impact fanbase. We were certain the team would be unable to overcome the circumstances.

As a rotated lineup was presented by Rémi Garde, the Impact began the match on the front foot and thoroughly dominated the first half, enjoying large spells of possession and registering 6 shots on goal. Orji Okwonkwo, switched from the right wing to the left wing, rattled the crossbar and goalkeeper Cody Cropper produced several fine stops to keep things even at halftime.

Revs coach Brad Friedel made adjustments at halftime, and the Revolution came into the match to start the second half with a great deal more energy. However, they remained unable to give Evan Bush a save to make. As the match wore on, it felt as though perhaps this would end another 0-0 draw, and that the Impact would rue those missed chances from the first half.

However, a handball given away in the 78th minute allowed for an opportunistic free kick. Daniel Lovitz hit the target, Cropper spilled the ball and midfielder Shamit Shome poked home his first career goal for the Impact. The 2017 Superdraft pick had spent most of his career on the outside looking in, but has been called upon more by Garde this season. In a match where Shome’s pass quality and soccer IQ were made more evident, and given his long wait for valuable minutes, it felt like a richly deserved goal.

Another maligned prospect, Homegrown striker Anthony Jackson-Hamel, had lost Garde’s and the fan’s trust last season after his attitude and work rate were called into question. Despite a tense end of the season, AJH has shown a much better attitude, and he was afforded a chance to return to super-sub status. A brace notched between in the 89th minute and injury time show that he was more than ready to seize that opportunity.

With this 3-0 win over the Revs, the Impact have now claimed 11 points on the season from the 8 road matches they’ve played — matching their total from the whole of last season. It was also a significant win as it was the first time since Piatti joined the Impact that the team has won a road match in his absence.

The Impact have made it back to Montréal with no trouble, and will therefore likely be on time to their next match against visiting Chicago Fire on Sunday, April 28th.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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Home Sweet Homecoming for Montréal Impact

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

It felt like the six long weeks had dragged on interminably, but in fact they flew by. At long last, the Montréal Impact were returning home to Stade Saputo to play their first home match of the season. It was a highly anticipated moment for all who associate with the Bleu-Blanc-Noir and, even from a distance, the excitement was palpable.

However, the match against the first-place Columbus Crew lacked the same excitement that the pre-match build up had provided. Ignacio Piatti is still sidelined by a knee injury, and the Crew have a notoriously stingy defense. Given that the Impact had only scored one goal in the three games Piatti had been absent, few were prepared for an offensive spectacle, and rightfully so.

The first half of the match was largely dominated by the Crew, who passed between the midfield and defensive lines on several occasions, calling goalkeeper Evan Bush into action. On the offensive end, neither wingers Orji Okwonkwo or Harry Novillo particularly impressed as they were well-shackled by the Columbus defense. As the teams left the pitch at halftime at 0-0, many Montréal fans felt the scoreline was more due to luck than to skill.

But sometimes, luck is all you need. Evan Bush launched a long ball, which led to a miscued header between the Columbus central defenders. Striker Maxi Urruti‘s incessant pressing paid off as he seized the loose ball and sprinted toward the goal. Johnathan Mensah did a fine job in getting back to prevent Urruti from shooting, but as he lost his footing, Urruti passed the ball back to Novillo whose first time strike found the bottom left corner of the net. New Impact president Kevin Gilmore rang the North Star Bell with aplomb as Novillo opened his account.

The Impact would get even luckier 15 minutes later, when Daniel Lovitz‘s goal-line clearance was headed directly onto the crossbar and several video angles were not conclusive enough for VAR to award a goal.

Later, fans would be treated to seeing homegrown players Mathieu Choinière and Clément Bayiha come on to the pitch to relieve the wingers and give Columbus something else to think about as they pushed for a goal. Montréal arguably played their best football of the day with these two additions on the field.

Although the performance was far from perfect, it was arguably a perfect day for the Impact players and fans alike. Underneath the nicest weather Montréal had enjoyed all year, fans reunited to create a fantastic atmosphere and the team picked up where they left off in communing with fans both before and after the match.

The Impact have a week to catch their breath before taking to the road once again (after all, it is only barely spring here in Canada!). Next Saturday, they will take on the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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Montreal Impact Wraps Up The Road Trip

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

Finally! The Montréal Impact are preparing for their first home game after six games on the road. Following a 7-1 shellacking at the hands of Sporting Kansas City, fans were eager, if not a little apprehensive, to see how the following matches would go. Would the Impact recover from that humiliation, or had they been shaken too deeply by such an embarrassing defeat?

First on the docket was a trip to Yankee Stadium, to face a faltering NYCFC who were still in search of their first win of the season. With each team missing their most special Argentinian, the fact that the game ended a 0-0 draw was unsurprising. Truly, the match was an overall non-event, as safety on very poor grounds became a bigger concern than the result. Unfortunately for the Impact, forwardMaxi Urruti picked up a red card for a studs-to-shin challenge that was more clumsy than malicious.

This meant that the Bleu-Blanc-Noir were off to Washington, DC on only three days’ rest, short a striker and the player who makes the team tick. Although these were far from ideal circumstances, the fact that Wayne Rooney, who is every bit as important to DC United as Ignacio Piatti is to the Impact, had picked up a red card of his own for Tuesday’s match was a blessing.

With the short turnaround and concerns on the attacking fronts, Rémi Garde opted to give time to the youth players. Mathieu Choinière, Clément Bahiya and Zachary Brault-Guillard all got their first starts with the Bleu-Blanc-Noir. Striker Anthony Jackson-Hamel and Shamit Shome were also given a chance to prove their worth. Including stalwart Samuel Piette, six Canadians featured in the starting eleven.

And the kids did all right. In another match that ended in a 0-0 draw with little to talk about in terms of highlights, there are still quite a few positives that can be retained. First, that our bench might be a little deeper than previously feared. Choinière and Brault-Guillard were undoubtedly the standout performers of the match.

Second, two clean sheets in a row on the back of a heavy loss is an encouraging sign that the defense, and team as a whole, found the stability that had been crucial to a strong end of last season and this pre-season. Finally, the end of this road trip means that the Impact have completed a third of their away matches for the season, and have taken 8 points – a respectable tally to start, and definitely a significant improvement on the 11 road points they earned over the whole of 2018.

At long last, the Impact will return to Stade Saputo to enjoy their first home match of the season on Saturday, April 13th. With Piatti unavailable, and the Eastern Conference top dogs Columbus Crew in town, all eyes will be on who can step up and score a goal to ring that first bell of 2019.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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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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