Tag Archives: Harry Novillo

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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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

Featured image: @impactmontreal

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