Tag Archives: Ignacio Piatti

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.

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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.

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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.

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Certainly not a Defensive Spectacle

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Montreal v Minnesota: 2-3

At long last, it was time for my homecoming to Stade Saputo. Your friendly neighborhood MLSFemale reporter was excited to return to Montréal for the remainder of the season … to watch the beautiful game and to see some goals!

But I should have been careful what I wished for. A red-hot Minnesota United team were in town, and they had no shortage of goals in their boots, but Montréal Impact’s offense had been sputtering along since Ignacio Piatti’s injury.

Anthony Jackson-Hamel was given a rare start, as other attacking options Maxi Urruti and Harry Novillo had failed to tally up goals. He didn’t take long to get off the mark, scoring the opening goal in the 27th second.

However, for as much as the Loons’ defense had been caught napping, Montréal would prove just as guilty. In his return from Gold Cup action, Samuel Piette played a rare miscued pass, forcing a turnover that couldn’t have been more costly — Mason Toye was essentially free on goal, and equalized.

In the 13th minute came yet another goal, as Rudy Camacho bundled home from Saphir Taïder‘s corner to score his first Bleu-Blanc-Noir goal and put the home team back ahead 2-1.

Yet the match was far from over. On a night when the defense was not up to par, another costly turnover sent Ethan Finlay free in front of Evan Bush, who came out to meet him. The two players’ bodies came together, and referee Alan Kelly awarded a penalty. The call was upheld after a VAR consultation, and Finlay converted to equalize once again as boos rained down from the stands.

It would go from bad to worse in the second half. As the Impact had gotten off to a quick start earlier, Minnesota were not to be outdone, and Toye notched his second goal, pulling his team ahead 3-2. It would prove to be the game-winning goal, but the controversy was not over.

In the 52nd minute, Taïder’s cross hit a Minnesota defender on the elbow, and as the team and fans implored Kelly to consult VAR again, he was having none of it. Assistant coach Robert Duverne was ejected for his reaction to the incident.

Montréal continued to pepper the Minnesota goal area with shots and crosses, but to no avail. Visiting keeper Vito Mannone was called on to make several excellent saves, yet at the end, the Impact were unable to make up for a sequence of disappointing defensive mistakes.

Now Montréal must shift gears, as they are to travel to York 9 FC of the Canadian Premier League in the quarter-final round of the Canadian Championship competition on Wednesday. In MLS competition, they return to Stade Saputo on Saturday, July 13th for a match that has been circled on everyone’s calendar … versus the much-loathed Toronto FC.

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In Piatti’s Absence, Montréal Impact Emerge Successful but Unsatisfying

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

Most recent results: 5/18: Montréal Impact v NE Revolution 0-0, 5/11: Montréal Impact v FC Cincinnati 2-1, 4/13: Montréal Impact v Columbus Crew 1-0

It is no secret to anyone who follows MLS. Sure, the coach prepares his tactics and sends out the strongest team at his disposal. Sure, it is an eleven-man team, not a one-man team. But in Montréal, there is one particular player who consistently makes the difference between a loss and a draw, or a draw and a win. That overwhelming influence falls on the shoulders of Ignacio Piatti.

The Impact have been incredibly lucky. In Piatti’s time with the club he has missed remarkably few matches due to injury. However, the 2019 campaign has not been so kind to the player.

Following the third match of the season, when Piatti scored his second and third goals for the team, he was sidelined for a total of ten matches due to injury, and then a setback in his rehabilitation.

For those of us who had followed the team since his 2015 arrival, we began to sing the familiar chorus of “No Piatti, No Party” — losing your leading goalscorer and team MVP for nearly a third of the MLS campaign is bound to hurt anyone, but when a team is so dependent on one player to provide their goals, it hurts even more.

The Impact’s 4-4-2 record in Piatti’s absence came as a surprise to just about everyone on the outside looking in, particularly taking into account that seven of those matches took place on the road. Although coach Rémi Garde and the players have preached a collective effort and mentality, history was not on their side.

During Piatti’s absence, the Impact have both recorded their first-ever MLS regular season win at Red Bull Arena, and have also been humiliated with a 7-1 drubbing in Kansas City. They’ve recorded six shutouts, but have also only scored 9 goals in the aforementioned time period.

In the absence of their primary goalscorer, all eyes have been on the Impact’s more offensive-minded players to see who would pick up Piatti’s torch. Indeed, Omar Browne provided flashes of technique and scored a goal before falling to injury. Anthony Jackson-Hamel got off the mark before de facto starting striker Maxi Urruti. Urruti, remains stuck at one goal on the season, despite notching five assists.

Garde’s former protegé, Harry Novillo, has been a resounding disappointment, while Bologna loanee Orji Okwonkwo has used speed and power to overcome a series of fullbacks on the right wing. Still, all of that potential has by and large fallen short in that crucial moment in front of the goal.

Undoubtedly, the saving grace for the Bleu-Blanc-Noir is the fact that the team has been more defensively sound this season. Although the team has been on the receiving end of several results that are anything but flattering, Evan Bush is already more than halfway toward catching up with his personal best 10 shutouts that were recorded last season.

Again, it feels wrong to complain about a totally respectable record, taking into account how many other players on the team are carrying injuries and not playing at full fitness. Yet somehow, it still doesn’t feel like enough. The Impact’s third place in the Eastern Conference feels far from set in stone, especially with many teams climbing up the rankings with matches in hand.

With Piatti’s return, here’s hoping his presence is the impetus for the Impact to get their scoring mojo back before the mass exodus of players for the impending Gold Cup.

Next match: Friday, May 24th at LAFC.

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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.

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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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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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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.

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