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A goalless draw was all that could be mustered at Stade Saputo. Mission accomplished for Peter Vermes and his men to get a point away from home, but still played parts of the game to get all 3 points. The Montreal Impact would have preferred 3 points looking at the game's events, especially during the second half.
In the 12th minute, Sporting KC almost opened the score after Graham Zusi received a gift from a Matteo Ferrariquestionable clearance (Alessandro Nesta made sure to point that out to him). The US International's low curling shot missed Troy Perkins' right post by a hair.
Scoring a goal in the first half was an important potential winning factor for Montreal. Justin Mapp almost opened score after a smart set piece combination with Marco Di Vaio. The Italian striker played it short and quick to Mapp who had an open space to run on and took a strong right-footed shot that curled wide. Jimmy Nielsen was not happy at all with Mapp having time and space.
Andrew Wenger also had a chance to give the lead when he came in the second half. Felipe Martins gave a nice ball to Wenger from the edge of the box but Wengers deflection's was met and saved by Nielsen again. A controversial apparent handball from Seth Sinovic was not enough to give a break for the Impact who could have, should have gotten a penalty called in their favor.
By the end of the game, Matteo Ferrari was furious at himself when he powered a header ,from Di Vaio free kick, directly on Nielsen.
A feeling of disappointment and what-ifs clouded Stade Saputo when the referee whistled the end of the game. With 2 more games played , the Montreal Impact are 6 points behind the Houston Dynamo who hold the 5th spot.
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Analysis of both halves after the jump...
First half: Sporting KC pressing smothers the Montreal Impact
Sporting Kansas City dominated the first half without really being fully pressured. Graham Zusi was very comfortable in the midfield, getting away from Patrice Bernier's and Collen Warner's marking zone. Very reminiscent of Joel Lindpere (during 2-1 loss vs NYRB at the Olympic Stadium), Zusi found the sweet spot between the Montreal defense and midfield. He was key to the team's buildup during the first half. He also ''de-zoned'' a lot as expected switching between the center midfield and the right side.
A positive point from the 1st half for Montreal was the club's capacity to get the ball back when pressing was done in organised coordinated way. A few times, when Di Vaio, Mapp and Felipe decided to take on the Sporting KC midfield players, a few turnovers came out of that. The game plan seemed also to play behind the offensive, aggressive KC fullbacks and the Impact were delivering a few good passes to Di Vaio via the sides.
The first 45 minutes were not the best for offensive buildup from the Montreal midfield but the physicality from the Sporting KC midifeld made the rythym choppy. Felipe Martins had a few interesting runs but his compatriot, Julio Cesar, made sure to make his game as uncomfortable as possible.
The pace was not on Montreal's advantage in the first half but we could see a difference in some part of the Impact's buildup with Jeb Brovsky and Hassoun Camara, really giving some added value on the sides. One concern , that also happened a few times in the game, was some mistakes from the Impact defense in clearing the ball or handling the ball, giving some dangerous counter attacks for the visitors.
As soon as the Impact combined quickly with one-touch passing, more dangerous chances and more freedom to build the play was created.
The second half: A roller coaster of emotions
An offensive change started the second half when Andrew Wenger came in for Justin Mapp. Jesse Marschidentified that he needed more impact (no pun intended) on the Sporting KC back-line and give more help to Marco Di Vaio. Felipe switched to the left side of the midfield but was still tightly marked by Michael Harrington, the very aggressive right back. Felipe did enjoy less pressure from Julio Cesar and that somewhat helped the team.
Ten minutes into the second half, Jesse Marsch kept the same 4-4-2 formation but changed around players when he brought in Sanna Nyassi for Alessandro Nesta. Hassoun Camara switched to the CB position andDavy Arnaud played right back : going all in for the 3 points .
Julio Cesar substitution out of the game was beneficial to the Impact to give its midfield a breather. Unfortunately some imprecision in the buildup did not permit a full advantage. Nyassi's speed helped a few times to try and break a compact Sporting KC team that decided to protect the fort in the second half.
The KC pressing continued as Peter Vermes respects Montreal's capacity to go forward. Davy Arnaud really took the right back position to heart and ran a lot of to offer space and solution to his team. A Jeb Brovsky cross finds the captain who shoots low and inches wide, who deserved more than just a merit badge of effort for his game.
During the last 20 minutes of the game, the game continued to miss a real rhythm to it as if both teams knew each other very well. Andrew Wenger never really synced up with Marco Di Vaio and not a lot of solutions were being offered for the Montreal midfield.
Matteo Ferrari almost gives the lead and the win for his club when his powerful header is directed at Nielsen who makes the save. Like Davy Arnaud who punches the pitch when he almost scored, Ferrari showed his frustration and disappointment by not doing better.
20,521 fans at Stade Saputo were holding their heads... what if Ferrari scored, what if Sinovic's handball in the box was called?