With the type of mazy run that Ignacio Piatti has been attempting all year long, it was probably fitting that he finally made it all come together on Saturday night. In the most important game of the Montréal Impact season, the Argentinian scored an absolute golazo to help IMFC clinch a playoff spot, beating the New England Revolution by a score of 1-0.
All year long the Impact have given away freebies to the opposition, either by gift wrapping them a goal or making a rash tackle that resulted in a penalty or sending off. Against New England the team wasn’t flawless, but they put in the kind of defensive effort that we became accustomed to early on in the year, when the team was battling to the death for results in Concacaf Champions league play.
One thing I noticed in particular was that the defensive back four played one of their smarter games in months. There was clearly a lot of tape watched by the squad, because both Wandrille Lefèvre and Victor Cabrera did a good job of avoiding a particular mistake that the Impact had been making in games past. In recent road losses by the club, too often we saw unnecessary passes between the CB’s and midfielders, in an attempt to regain possession and slow the game down.
On Saturday, the midfielders were rarely used in the offensive buildup, as the defenders instead opted to play deep balls to the wingers or Drogba to begin an attack. Despite being a lower percentage-type play, it was definitely lower risk, and it ultimately frustrated the Revolution attack.
It was a classic road-game approach to take, but too often we’ve seen IMFC complicate their lives on the road by attempting too many passes out of the back.
I had to laugh at Vic Rauter, who spent half the game talking about where Didier Drogba was on the pitch. Why is he in midfield? Why is he defending? Why is he seemingly everywhere at once? To me it wasn’t that surprising that he kept dropping back into midfield, and I assume it wouldn’t be for anyone who has watched Impact games of late.
To put it simply, Drogba is better than anyone (by far) at knocking down balls in midfield and making quick passes or flick-ons to his teammates. He didn’t do it as effectively against New England, but its definitely part of the team’s game plan. When you think about it makes sense. Instead of leaving Drogba out on an island, waiting for a ball to come his way after a series of passes in buildup, he starts the buildup. If and when the team makes possession stick in the offensive third, that’s when Drogba moves up toward the box.
Drogba is also able to last 90 minutes playing this type of system. Against New England, Piatti and Venegas made most of the runs behind the defense, allowing Drogba to conserve his energy.
In the end, Biello has found a way to get the most out of a player who, despite his age, always seems to have as much or more energy than most players on the pitch.
Though the team struggled with the Astroturf for much of this game, I think there was a definite improvement in their offensive play from what we saw a week prior versus Colorado.
The goal aside, there was a much stronger effort in this game to get crosses into the box.
To say that the wingers and fullbacks are always to blame for a lack of service into the box is not telling the whole story. After all, for there to be an effective cross into the box, there needs to be someone on the other end, and the lack of a box presence has been just as problematic in recent weeks.
On Saturday, we saw a much better box presence, mostly in the shape of Johan Venegas. This is not the first time we’ve seen the Costa Rican be effective in this role. He’s come close to scoring in the box on a few occasions, though probably not in successive games. It seems like his role changes from game to game. It’s hard to say for sure, but it’s clear that he’s comfortable receiving the ball in the area, and shielding it with his back to goal.
His presence gave his teammates a target in the box, and offered Drogba some extra space to free himself for goal-scoring opportunities. Besides creating a chance for himself, Venegas’ ability to free himself in the area also created Drogba’s best chance of the night.
Seeing as though Drogba will be double or even triple-covered in the coming games, it will be integral that a player like Venegas carves out space in the box to keep the defense honest.