Mistakes at this level are very costly and the age-old cliche definitely applies to the Montreal Impact's 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City.
The opening goal for the hosts came via a misjudged pass from Patrice Bernier, who was looking for Hassoun Camara. The Sporting KC left back, Seth Sinovic, found Benny Feilhaber who finds Claudio Bieler. The Argentinean Designated Player took advantage of a Montreal defense still in transition and took a shot from just outside the 18-yard box to score the first goal. After 5 minutes,the Montreal Impact already had a steep hill to climb.
The Blues of KC did not stop there as Aurelien Collin thought he scored with a header off a Graham Zusi free kick but was called offside. With the only ''chance'' coming off a 34th minute header from Karl W. Ouimette, the Impact had a very quiet and lackluster first half.
In the second half, Montreal had more offensive intentions with Andres Romero and Felipe Martins coming off respectively for Sanna Nyassi and Andrew Wenger. Finding more space between the KC defense and midfield, Montreal was still vulnerable to quick counterattacks. Claudio Bieler almost made it 2-0 around the 70th minute as his shot misses Perkins' left post.
Graham Zusi made sure to kill off any chance of a comeback as he scored his second goal of the season and finished off the Impact at the 80th minute. Montreal coach Marco Schällibaum was then ejected from the match immediately following Zusi's goal for reportedly throwing a water bottle at the fourth official in the 81st minute.
The story of the game has been told but what really happened at Kansas City?
Asphyxiation by Pressing
It is no surprise to know that Sporting Kansas City will pressure its opponent from the get-go. It has been a part of its game and the 90 minutes team effort was a message that was heard loud and clear. The intense pressing they applied on the Impact was even more impressive. In 2013 , it was the first game for Montreal in which it was pressed in numbers by a team that was synchronized in its movement for a sustained period of time.
Neither Seattle , Portland, New York nor Toronto FC had that mindset especially with Sporting KC having a complete game with offense coming from the middle and from the sides; taking us to the next point....
Diversify and Be Less Predictable
Diversifying its offense was not the Impact's strong point in 2012 and it is still the same in 2013. The big difference in 2013 is Patrice Bernier's new positioning as the ''sole'' midfield player in front of the defense. That shift has put a bigger emphasis on Montreal's offensive intentions aka the Bernier Funnel.
Going through him is giving more options for Bernier as per passing options leaving Felipe Martins and Davy Arnaud to play higher up. The catch is that Montreal is continuing to depend on the middle of the field to create offense without really metamorphosing its lateral game. Whether it is from the wingers or full backs, the movement on the sides is not dynamic enough to keep the opponent on its toes.
Without having to play like Sporting KC and cross the ball into the box 20+ times, having a more diverse portfolio creates more chances for everyone. Stretching out the defense with runs and movements on the side, creates space in the middle. The inverse is true as if you are able to suck in your opponent in the middle, you create ''boulevards'' on the wings.
The Impact's faults were very much apparent against one the league's most organised and talented teams. As it depends on a quick counter attack, Plan B has yet to show itself or at least develop into a viable solution.
Having that kind of maturity as a group does not happen overnight . A more diverse game is something that the Montreal Impact Management and Coaching Staff has identified post-2012. Whether its via players movements/signings and/or tactical shifts, expect the 2013 Sophomore club to make adjustments.