Thanks to two killer crosses followed by two expertly executed back heels, the Montréal Impact locked up their first ever home game in their short MLS existence. Despite looking lackluster in the first half against their route 401 rivals, TFC, the Impact came out gangbusters in the second half, scoring two quick goals to gain a stranglehold on the derby, eventually winning by a score of 2-1.
Obviously Didier Drogba was a huge factor in the eventual win, but a decisive move at halftime and a wake up call from the coach also played a huge part in the IMFC comeback.
Wingers: more important than you’d think
This season has had a lot of talking points, most of which has revolved around getting a better coach and of course every team’s main focus, getting better players. If one were to look back over player issues that were discussed over the course of the season, they would find a lot of talk about needing a striker, a defensive midfielder, a central attacking midfielder, and even another central defender.
The only position that didn’t get a lot of airplay? That would be the wing position. The reason mostly for that, in my opinion, is that most people don’t know how to rate a winger. Judging by most comments you hear on twitter or TV broadcasts, wingers are discussed in rather simplistic fashion: Can they make a good cross? Do they have the ability to take defenders on and beat them 1 v 1?
What isn’t discussed a whole lot is how bad wing play (failing to do the above mentioned tasks) often leads to more "clearer" errors or fouls by teammates covering for the winger’s initial blunder.
There’s a reason why there is such a thing known as a "professional foul." This is a foul, more often than not a booking, where a defender or midfielder takes down a player out of necessity, usually to negate a scoring chance on a counterattack. How did this counterattack happen? More often than not, its because a winger or midfielder gave the ball away trying to dribble around a defender or because he failed to make the right pass.
Central players like strikers, CAMs, and CMs depend on wingers to consistently make the right decision with the ball so they’re not constantly caught out of position up the field.
This has been a constant issue for IMFC all season long, and was made quite evident in the first half against TFC on Sunday. In my opinion, Johan Venegas has no clue how to play on the wing, and Dominic Oduro isn’t much better. It’s hard to get your attack set up in the offensive third when your wingers are constantly attempting and failing to take players on, which is exactly what both of the aforementioned players did.
Dilly Duka’s introduction in the second half completely saved the game for IMFC. Here’s how he did it:
Finding time and space
Whereas Venegas wanted the ball too early in the offensive buildup, receiving passes in and around midfield where he would attempt to dribble around an array of TFC players, Duka looked to find empty space behind the TFC midfield, and was very effective at doing so.
Montréal has a few players who are experts at long, cross-field passes, and two of them (Marco Donadel and Laurent Ciman) were playing on Sunday. In the first half they were quiet, but when Duka took over on the left flank, everything changed.
The shifty midfielder isn’t as fast Oduro or Venegas, but what he lacks in speed he makes up for in intelligence. Duka consistently found the quiet areas in the TFC defense and his teammates took notice. Donadel was finally able to showcase his accurate right boot, and found Duka (or Piatti who sometime shifted into Duka’s spot) on several occasions in the second half.
Duka may not have directly created any scoring chances, but his positioning and correct decision making with the ball created time and space for his teammates to do so.
Besides the offense coming to life in the second half, the win against TFC also showcased the return to form of Laurent Ciman. The Belgian had been struggling of late to time up his tackles and remain focused for a full 90 minutes, but he was definitely back to his old self on Sunday.
In goal, Evan Bush continued to be one of the most clutch players on the team. The Impact keeper made a couple of big saves in the first half to keep his team in it, something we’ve become accustomed to seeing of late. Coming into the season I wasn’t 100% sure he would be able to hold on to the No. 1 keeper spot on the squad, as Eric Kronberg had done pretty well at Sporting K.C. a year prior. Fast forward 8 months, and now I’m wondering if Bush is not one of the best goaltenders in the league.
If there was an award for substitute of the year (for 1 game) it might have to go to Hassoun Camara in Sunday’s win. Talk about coming into the game and putting on a defensive clinic. Considering what was at stake, the Frenchman showed no fear stepping in and making big tackles, despite having very little time to adapt to the pace of the game. It was truly the epitome of a clutch performance.