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.
After 3 long weeks off for some much-needed rest and recovery during the Gold Cup, the Montréal Impact were back in action Wednesday night at Stade Saputo. Although the break had allowed several players to recover from injury and return to the lineup, the Impact were still short 2 players on the bench. Visiting Portland Timbers were in a similar situation, as they’d done a full squad rotation and had not even brought a full team.
As Orji Okwonkwo and Bacary Sagna returned following injury absences, there remained several question marks around the Bleu-Blanc-Noir. How rusty would the team be? How would they adjust to a 3-4-3 formation, a departure from the usual 4-3-3? Would the players returning from injury be fit enough to contribute meaningfully?
The Impact wasted no time in affirming their desire to create scoring chances. Having referred to the offensive quality as “sterile” or “non-existent” at several points throughout the season, it was truly a breath of fresh air to watch the team set up camp in the attacking third. Okwonkwo and Sagna were notably effective, combining with a chemistry that made it look as though they had played together for months.
After a littany of near misses, Sagna reacted quickly to intercept a pass, deftly sending Okwonkwo behind the defense in the 28th minute. The Nigerian striker put on the afterburners to find himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, and made no mistake, thumping the ball into the roof of the net.
The Impact started the second half a little lethargically, and were made to pay when the Timbers floated in a free kick that Tomas Cocechny headed home to tie the match at 1-1 in the 53rd minute. Montréal promptly woke up and began to play with the intensity they showed in the first half. They were rewarded with the team’s best goal of the season so far, when Victor Cabrera sought out captain Saphir Taïder. Taïder hooked the pass back to Okwonkwo who, from the top of the box, struck the ball on the volley mid-turn, rocketing it into the top corner to score a screamer of a match-winner.
Although the match was very pleasing to watch from a Montréal perspective, especially given how light the squad remains, this 2-1 result should also be taken with a grain of salt. Portland’s approach with a fully rotated squad signified that they were willing to let this match go. Winning a home match is essential, but there will be far stiffer competition to come, and certainly before many Impact players have returned to the lineup.
In the spirit of the condensed schedule, Montréal are off to Mercedes Benz Stadium, where they’ll take on reigning champions Atlanta United who are missing a few of their own key players, but still a tremendously strong team. Yet if the Impact show up with the same hunger that they demonstrated versus the Timbers, anything is possible!
As many of you may not know, I’m a teacher by day. Here in the Great White North, we have reached the end of the school year, so it’s time to hand out report cards to the kids before I can kick back and spend my summer at Stade Saputo.
The spirit of the season has inspired me to give a report card to the team at this halfway point in the the season. In lieu of giving individual grades, players will be divided into 3 categories: Exceeding Expectations, Making the Grade, More Effort Required. Players who have featured in fewer than 5 matches/500 minutes will be exempt from grading as there is an insufficient body of work to assess due to excessive absence. (#teachertalk).
Samuel Piette — I doubt the Bulldog from Repentigny expected to become the de facto captain for the Impact in Nacho Piatti’s extended absence. However, he has represented everything a team captain should embody: strong work ethic, leaving it all on the pitch, keeping a cool head, and being a shining ambassador for the club.
Zakaria Diallo — The central defender had spent the entirety of the 2018 season sidelined by a torn ACL, so expectations for him may have been as simple as “stay healthy.” He has done just that and his aerial prowess has proven crucial as the Impact defend set pieces.
Omar Browne — This shock signing screamed of desperation as Piatti disappeared from the lineup. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, many wondered if he was even worth the International Spot the Impact had to buy to sign Browne. We only had a very small sample size to base his performances on before coming to the team, but his contributions, especially in a sterile offense, have been a breath of fresh air.
Shamit Shome — What a surprise Shome’s rise to Starting XI status has been this season! Signed as a 2017 second-round Superdraft pick, Shome had largely been ignored by 2 Impact coaches until April. The injury-ravaged squad allowed him a series of starts, which the central midfield seized with aplomb. His vision for a pass makes up for a lack of pure technique.
Zachary Brault-Guillard — Get out your chequebook, Joey Saputo! The Lyon loanee is a modern fullback in every sense of the word. Fast, young, hungry, keen to contribute to the attacking phase of play, ZBG has been a more than adequate backup to Sagna, from whom he is undoubtedly learning a great deal.
Making the Grade
Saphir Taïder — The Algerian DP can be the best player on the pitch, or he can be a hindrance to the team. Taïder lacks the consistency he played with last season, and continued to play through an injury for several weeks. The team’s final match before the Gold Cup break, a 2-1 win over Seattle Sounders, where he scored both goals, was probably Taïder’s best performance of the season. Here’s hoping the break allows him the rest and recovery to return to his best self.
Victor Cabrera — Cabrera has made a regular return to the starting XI this season alongside Diallo. He is still known for the risky tackles. When they pay off, he looks like an All-Star player. When they don’t, his teammates are left in hot water. Maybe it’s a different pairing, maybe it’s just luck, but Cabrera has acquitted himself admirably thus far.
Micheal Azira — Having been bumped from the starting XI by Shome’s more offensive qualities, Azira has proven to be a serviceable, if unremarkable, substitute/rotation player.
Orji Okwonkwo — It remains to be seen if Okwonkwo is best suited to a winger or a central striker role, as the team’s needs have kept him on the wings for the beginning of the season. Okwonkwo’s technique and speed have impressed so far, but he’s been sidelined a few times by injury, and we’d like to see him stay healthy.
Bacary Sagna — What the veteran lacks in stamina, he makes up for with cool decision making. Having had a revolving door of partners on the right side of the pitch, Sagna has done his best to develop chemistry with whoever he’s paired with. However, he’s been a victim of the travel-heavy start to the condensed season and is out injured.
Jukka Raitala — The Finnish army knife continues to slot in wherever needed. Rarely looking uncomfortable, Raitala does not make showy tackles when simpler work does the trick.
Evan Bush — Bush stood on his head last season, setting a team record for saves, and a personal record for shutouts. He hasn’t been as rock-steady so far, but is still proving his worth as a veteran in the squad.
Struggling with their Tasks
Harry Novillo — I don’t think much needs to be said here. Novillo was signed on Rémi Garde’s promise that, although he has much ability, his attitude and off-pitch behaviour were what had led Novillo to the Malaysian second division — but he’s changed! Turns out that might not be the case … Frequently injured or ill, Novillo has had little chance to showcase his abilities, and Garde himself has said the player still needs to demonstrate more professionalism.
Maxi Urruti — It seems cruel to classify Urruti as a player who isn’t doing enough. He runs his guts out without fail every match. However, he’s a striker with only one goal this season (a penalty), and who still looks a bit lost in the box. After 2 seasons of toothless strikers, Impact fans are antsy for something more clinical.
Daniel Lovitz — Nicknamed “Marcelovitz” last season, Daniel Lovitz earned his first USMNT call-up in the January camp. Unfortunately, he returned a shadow of the overlapping, attack-minded player we saw previously. He has played a far more conservative game thus far, and seems to have had the confidence drained out of him.
As I always tell concerned parents at our conferences, this is just a progress report, not a definitive grading! There is still plenty of time for the players who have disappointed so far to improve. Here’s hoping that they rise to the challenge!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.