Game three is in the books. The host Columbus Crew defeated the Impact 2-0. The refereeing was once again at the forefront. An early red card to Jeb Brovsky saw Jesse Marsch's game plan get thrown out the window as the Impact went on survival mode for 70+ minutes. Fans will scream injustice as Nick De Santis and Joey Saputo may need to call contractors to fix various holes that they may have punched in their walls. The Impact leave Ohio still in search of their first win.
Donovan Ricketts, despite a couple of shaky plays, held his own between the sticks. DR showed some great poise on a couple of tough saves and is showing more and more confidence as the defensive general. He did seem to injure his wrist late in the 2nd half. More information should be available during the week.
Jeb Brovsky was the victim of a horrible refereeing decision during the 19th minute. He was sent to the showers early after he went in the air for a challenge against Milovan Mirosevic. His elbow did make contact with Mirosevic's head but the contact was neither violent nor malicious. Other than repeatedly touching his ear and displaying minor facial expressions of pain, the Columbus midfielder didn't even seem affected by the play.
More after the jump
Tyson Wahl did not have a good game. Often the target of the Crew’s Emilio Renteria, Wahl struggled with the physical play and was whistled for far too many fouls. Beaten in the air on the play that led to Columbus’ 2nd goal, Tyson will want to quickly forget this trip to Ohio and begin his plans for redemption next week against the Red Bulls.
Josh Gardner, outside of a deserved yellow, played his usual reliable defensive game. Offensively, he wasn’t as productive as usual which is normal considering that the Impact couldn’t take as many chances being a man down.
Davy Arnaud, despite starting the game in midfield, moved to the right back position once Brovsky saw red. The captain did very well to stabilize the back line and keep his squad in the game. He was instrumental in avoiding any sentiment of panic from taking over and kept the focus intact. Fatigue took over in the last 25 minutes as his passes started to miss their targets.
Matteo Ferrari was quiet and that’s a good thing. Rarely tested, the Crew stayed away from him for the whole game and was never truly challenged. His biggest highlight was his header that went just wide of the goal midway thru the 2nd half, just failing to put his team on the board.
The unity that the backline showed was remarkable. They battled through the loss of Brovsky as well as Wahl’s ineffectiveness. Fans need to keep in mind that this defense was missing half of its starters and its primary backup at right back. Valentin is still with the U23s and Rivas is out. We can only truly judge this team once all the parts are in place. Can you judge a car’s performance if it only has 3 tires on it?
Felipe Martins was the victim of a 2nd horrible refereeing decision when he was whistled for a foul in the box on Renteria despite clearly making contact with the ball first. The result: a penalty awarded to Columbus. Despite the bad call, the Italo-Brazilian tornado displayed some very good control in the center of the midfield and was a constant offensive threat while rushing back to help out on the defensive side of the ball when needed. His best play came in the 79th minute when he launched a 50 yard bomb to Corradi who failed to put it in the back of the net.
Justin Mapp had his best showing in an Impact uniform. His distribution was on point, he moved well off the ball and has begun to silence his critics (mainly me) with his positive play. Justin was involved in most of the team’s offensive plays with his great crosses and almost tied the game in the 43rd minute with a Gardner-like blast that surprised everyone and bounced off the crossbar. Unfortunately, since he couldn’t control what happened once he crossed the ball, the Impact were not able to get on the board.
Lamar Neagle made his 2nd appearance of the season in the 69th minute as he replaced a tired Mapp. He had a very quiet 20 minutes and did nothing noteworthy.
Patrice Bernier was very quiet in the first half. His overall involvement was lacking. He was subbed off at halftime.
Collen Warner started the 2nd half and was quickly shown a well deserved yellow card. He was late on a tackle and sent his opponent airborne. Unfortunately, he never really got engaged in the game and was not a difference maker at all.
Lack of midfield cohesion is what essentially killed any offensive rhythm that the Impact could have had. Too many changes and not enough difference makers. Felipe and Mapp did their part today but the rest of the midfielders were as silent as mice when a cat enters the room.
Justin Braun was a target but for all the wrong reasons. Rather than be a positive target for his teammates and being a constant threat towards goal, Justin remains the target of the fans’ frustration with the offensive side of the ball. Despite his big frame and receiving the best service that he’s gotten in this young season, Braun was either outplayed physically or a second late on every scoring chance he had. He started the 2nd half at right mid as Corradi came in and played as the lone striker. His struggles just continued and there was no justification for him remaining on the field for the full 90 minutes. He needs to start using his body to dominate defenders and remain within 25 yards of the opposing goal. Perhaps a reserve game or two could help him regain his confidence.
Sanna Nyassi, who was shown a yellow card for protest, nearly opened the scoring in the first half when a powerful header was saved at the last second by the Columbus keeper. Sanna showed the effects of his injured ankle as his trademark creativity, ball control and long runs were absent. Jesse Marsch opted to bring in Bernardo Corradi at halftime to try and create an offensive spark.
Corradi showed better mobility and aggressiveness in the 2nd half in the striker role than Braun, however, chances were few and far between due to lack of pace and service. His most notable plays were a header on goal at the start of the 2nd half and a failed breakaway in the last 15 minutes.
As a unit, the Impact continued to battle and put pressure on the Crew for the entire first half even after being forced a man down. However, with fatigue settling in, they couldn’t maintain that pressure in the 2nd half and the Crew just took complete advantage. It is often said that a referee, even with a bad call, shouldn’t affect the outcome of a game but when you are forced to play shorthanded for 70 minutes that theory goes out the window. The red to Brovsky and the penalty just took the wind out of the Impact’s sails and they just couldn’t rise above it. One thing is for certain, the Impact and its fans better get used to the refereeing in the MLS because the Impact vs. Crew game was "fortunate" enough to have last year’s "MLS Ref of the Year" as their disciplinarian.
Impact Man of the Match
Justin Mapp – Easy choice here. He had his best game as an Impact player and his starting to gel more and more within the team. Extremely dangerous in the attacking half, he set up many great scoring chances with great, timely crosses that, unfortunately for him, were not converted.
The Impact now go back to the drawing board as they prepare for the Red Bulls with one of two mentalities. Either they rally behind each other and use this game as motivation or they feel sorry for themselves and come out flat.
The positives from this game are clear. The Impact didn’t give up for one second. Although fatigue settled in, the team did their best to keep battling and almost got on the board a few times. They should use this game as a building block as they prepare another team that is in a lot of turmoil lately. A win on the road in New York could turn this team’s season around. Like any other rookie, this team is showing flashes of being a really good and competitive squad. There is no sense of urgency yet but Jesse Marsch will have to use different pieces to try and bring this team to the next level. Perhaps having Corradi and Fucito up top for 90 minutes? A switch to a 4-3-3 and have Wenger join Corradi/Fucito? Perhaps pairing Arnaud and Felipe in central midfield and giving Bernier a day off? Leaving Braun on the bench? One thing is for certain, Marsch has his work cut out for him this week.
Keep your heads up!!