Tag Archives: Nacho Piatti

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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Montreal Impact’s biggest winter signing won’t set foot on the field

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb 

As the team flew to Florida to begin training camp, Montréal Impact fans were feeling rather blasé about the team’s offseason transfers. Then news broke on Monday evening. Team owner/president Joey Saputo was calling a press conference for the following morning. The topic was quickly revealed to be that industry veteran Kevin Gilmore would be announced as Saputo’s presidential successor. That revelation was met with utter incredulity – Saputo hand over the keys to his beloved team? Never!

Joey Saputo. Image: @impactmontreal

As is usually the case with Impact news, the leaked info was confirmed. In a 45-minute conference, Saputo explained that as the league and the team were evolving at a much faster rate than he could have imagined, he simply could not devote the time needed to properly run the Impact’s organization. It turned out that Gilmore had begun working with the team as an independent consultant in November 2018, and his impressive sports management resumé coupled with his knowledge of the region planted the seed in Saputo’s mind that this could be the right person to take over as president.

Nobody can doubt how much Joey Saputo loves the team he founded in 1993. The team he brought to MLS in 2012, which reached the CONCACAF Champions League Final in 2015 and played one of the most thrilling Eastern Conference Final matchups in the history of MLS a year later. Joey Saputo is the man who brought Didier Drogba to Montréal, which allowed me to fall in love with the Impact. He was clearly ready to invest in establishing soccer’s presence in a fairly-monopolized Montréal sports landscape, with the construction of Stade Saputo and a state-of-the-art training facility. After a thoroughly disappointing 2017 season, Joey Saputo sought out an elite coaching staff in Rémi Garde, Joël Bats and their assistants.

However, repeated criticism of Saputo’s leadership was that his passion could cloud his judgment when it came to the business side of the team. In 2018, when the team was in the midst of a winless May, Saputo mused aloud in a radio interview about selling beloved captain Nacho Piatti. He regularly spoke of the team as being in a small market and having to live in the shadow of the Montreal Canadiens. He would lament the lack of sell-out games in the post-Drogba era while offering little in the way of solutions to bring new fans to the stadium and often alienating supporter groups.

In his statement, Kevin Gilmore addressed several of the Impact’s, and by extension Saputo’s, shortcomings head-on. “We need to understand that we play in a top market and we need to start acting like a big-market team,” he asserted. Gilmore called for wiser spending rather than splashing larger sums of cash. He recognized that MLS has a much younger viewing audience than the other big North American leagues and that the team needed to target those younger fans, to engage with them more. He firmly believes there are enough fans in the city to fill Stade Saputo every week, but the team needs to work much harder to bring them to the stadium. Gilmore feels that the multi-cultural, multi-lingual team represents the city and that the Impact need not cower in the shadow of the Habs, but seize their own identity and stand up on their own. 

Kevin Gilmore. Image: @impactmontreal

How do the fans feel? In his first conference, Gilmore spoke the words we wanted to hear. He has a long history in the sports business, and although he is educated as a lawyer, he speaks like a salesman. In particular, his desire to bring people to the stadium and to come to love the team, rather than attracting people who are looking for a casual outing thrilled the IMFC community. Gilmore cited the importance of highlighting Piatti, who is an eternally underrated star of the league, because if we have one of the league’s best players – the whole city needs to know it.

Gilmore also stated that his previous experiences in the NHL showed him that the administration should not involve themselves with the technical aspects of a team. Given Saputo’s reputation for over-management, it will be a breath of fresh air to know that Rémi Garde and his staff can operate without the president adding his two cents.

As a millennial myself and one of Gilmore’s targets, his insight into what we are looking for as a generation – experiences, engagement, and authenticity – inspired confidence that he is looking to target a younger generation, who will hopefully remain faithful to the stadium longer. Although it is too early for Gilmore to provide specific examples of the changes he will effect, and some difficult decisions made, the long-term future of the club looks far more exciting than it did just a week ago.

Featured image: @impactmontreal

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @ejp_nb 

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Ask and you shall receive: Montréal Impact respond to Coach’s request

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve Powell // @evejulia9

Saturday, May 5: 4-2 Win

Earlier this week, Montréal Impact head coach Rémi Garde’s interview with the media became a talking point around MLS. When questioned by reporters, Garde stated that his players were not used to “training culture.” More shocking were his comments that Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Dominic Oduro, and Raheem Edwards, in particular, were not giving enough effort in training to compete for a spot on the bench, let alone a starting position.

These words were scrutinized by fans and journalists alike as the Impact prepared for their second home game versus New England Revolution after losing four straight matches in April. Everyone wondered if the coach was transforming the team, or if he was about to lose his locker room.

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Image: @impactmontreal

Imagine the surprise of many when the Impact presented their lineup. The familiar comfort of the 4-3-3 returned with two of the players singled-out by Garde in the starting 11: Jackson-Hamel and Edwards featured as striker and right winger, respectively. After being criticized by their manager, the young attackers would have the opportunity to prove their investment and desire to represent Montréal. Nacho Piatti captained the side and returned to his more familiar position on the left wing as he marked his 100th MLS match with the Impact.

The first half saw the Revs largely out-play a low-confidence Impact. On the attacking side, Edwards missed a golden opportunity to finish a cross from left back Daniel Lovitz, and Evan Bush was present to deal with a number of New England corners. To the delight of home fans, Piatti fed a delicious through ball to Jackson-Hamel who had remained just a hair on-side. The striker ran 40 yards alone to beat the keeper and saw his first goal of the season bobble across the line with only seconds left in the half.

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Piatti, Edwards, and Jackson-Hamel hugging for the header. Image: @impactmontreal

As the second half began, worry was in the air. The Impact had held a leading position during the previous two matches (3-1 vs LAFC and 0-1 vs Atlanta United) to start the second half and had folded in on themselves such that the league’s leakiest defense conceded enough goals to lose both games. Would the team try the same failing tactic once again?

The answer would prove to be a resounding “No.” Instead, fans were treated to a sight they had come to know and love over the four seasons Piatti has been with the team: The Nacho Show. Author of the assist to Jackson-Hamel’s first-half goal, Piatti would go on to provide two more assists – another to Jackson-Hamel and one to Edwards as they journeyed down their road to redemption. Finally, the Argentinian magician finished off a brilliant long pass by Samuel Piette to score a goal of his own.

Unfortunately, the Impact’s defensive woes would come back to haunt them again, as they conceded two late goals from set pieces, to finish with a scoreline of 4-2. While it is important to keep in mind that the team cannot continue to ship in multiple goals per game, credit should be heaped upon Piatti for the leadership he showed in creating chances for his teammates who were most in need.

Anthony Jackson-Hamel and Raheem Edwards also deserve their share of recognition for showing up when it mattered and seizing the opportunity they were afforded. Finally, Rémi Garde’s psychological tactics paid off, and perhaps he is instigating a much-needed cultural revolution within the team. Regardless of what challenges are to come in the rest of the season, the Impact deserve to celebrate a much-needed victory.

Up next: The Impact have a quick turn-around, as they make a mid-week trip to face Chicago Fire on Wednesday, May 9th.

Featured image courtesy: @impactmontreal

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

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Nightmare for Montreal in New England

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve Powell // @evejulia9

Friday, April 6: 4-0 Loss

Things were going so well … or so we thought. After picking up 2 consecutive wins while playing a 5-3-2 formation, Rémi Garde’s vision for the Montreal Impact seemed to be taking shape. Then, the team traveled to Foxborough to face the New England Revolution, a team who had also undergone a coaching change in the offseason. Fans were excited to see how the teams would stack up against each other so early in their new seasons.

Trouble announced itself for the Impact when the starting lineup came out an hour before the match. The team was playing a 5-3-2 once again, but Nacho Piatti’s name was nowhere to be found on the team sheet. The Argentinian maestro had not made the trip due to a slight injury. Instead, it was Anthony Jackson-Hamel, returning from his own injury, who took up the position as a secondary striker in Piatti’s absence.

Although the teams began the match on a fairly even footing, the 14th minute changed everything for the Impact. Saphir Taïder was attempting a roulette move, where he turned around and was meant to mislead an opponent with a dribble. As he was mid-turn, NE’s Luis Caicedo stepped in to challenge possession. Taïder’s foot was coming down and his studs made contact with Caicedo’s shin. Referee Jose Carlos Rivero did not hesitate to brandish a straight red card toward the Algerian midfielder. The Impact would now face the remaining 75+ minutes down a man, without either of their Designated Players.

Unsurprisingly, this turn of events resulted in a loss. What was surprising, was how quickly the Impact’s game unraveled, and how there seemed to be no solution to make up for Taïder’s ejection. This was Samuel Piette’s first night wearing the captain’s armband, and he undoubtedly had a Herculean task in trying to lead a group who had just lost their most important player.

The players who were on the pitch after the card played afraid. Passes were sloppy, communication was lacking, and other reckless challenges – including one which led to a penalty – dogged the ten men left on the pitch for the remainder of the match.

Although there is no magic wand a coach can wave to fix his formation or to make the right player magically appear, it remains a mystery what Rémi Garde attempted to adjust in the remaining lineup of players.

Perhaps no event underlines the air of defeat with which the Impact played after the red card than when the much-maligned Dominic Oduro was given his first minutes of 2018 when the result was already sealed. Maybe it was meant to give a player who is actively on the market a few minutes to pull off some magic and up his value, but it seemed like a poison pill from the part of the coaching staff.

The only good thing the Impact will take home with them from New England is that Lyes Ould-Ramoul (LyesMTL) finished second in the eMLS Cup!

On the other hand, one can certainly hope that Garde benefits from having a week’s warning that he will be without Taïder’s services, as the player will be suspended for the Impact’s upcoming trip to Red Bull Arena.

Featured image courtesy: @impactmontreal

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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