For those of you who suffered through the latest IMFC road defeat, I salute you and your loyalty to the club. It was truly a sad game to watch. Whether it’s due to playing on synthetic turf and/or playing in bad weather, it seems that the team can only function at a high level in the most pristine playing conditions. That and well, the obvious: Without Drogba or Piatti, the team lacks any kind of cohesion or imagination.
Playing to win?
Earlier in the week someone interviewed Nigel Reo-Coker, and when asked what had changed since Drogba arrived as well as Biello’s influence on the club, he responded by saying in so many words, "We go into each game, home or away, looking to win."
Well, that’s not really what it looked like on Saturday in Orlando. In truth, IMFC looked like a team trying not to make a mistake, trying to hold onto to a 0-0 scoreline until Drogba came on. It was miraculously 1-1 when he did appear in the 59th minute, but the team barely changed its approach on the pitch.
The word I would use to describe the Impact up until Orlando took the lead in the 80th minute would be "tentative." There was very little willingness to attack, and to be perfectly honest, the Impact have never played well when they’ve sat back. It’s rare that the Impact win a game by sitting back and scoring on a counterattack. It’s simply not in their DNA.
What kind of team is the Montréal Impact?
I’m not entirely sure what the identity of this club is, but I do know this: they are not a great counterattacking team. IMFC simply don’t have the skill to break out of their own end with the kind of efficiency of say an LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps, etc.,. They are at their most effective when they aggressively try to win back possession in midfield, or play long balls from the back into empty space.
I think they have nice pieces up front, and speedy ones at that. That said, just because you have speedy wingers doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at counterattacking.
A good counterattack requires first and foremost intelligence, precision and quick decision-making. Speed, frankly, is a bonus to that equation, not a requirement.
Scheme-wise, sitting back and defending in their defensive third is not one of their strengths. Regardless of how many goals they have or haven’t given up on set piece situations, IMFC clearly struggle defending them. The team is not great at defensive headers in the box. It was no great surprise on Saturday, then, that the team conceded the winning goal on a failed set piece clearance.
In a nutshell, the team needs to be the initiator if they want to have success: at home or on the road. The mindset needs to be "play to win", not just because they should do so anyhow, but because playing any other way will almost always result in a loss.
Should IMFC have come away with a better result in Orlando? Yes and no. Sure, the goals they conceded were completely avoidable, and in my opinion, Orlando didn’t create a whole lot offensively themselves. That said, they were the more aggressive of the two teams, and at the end of the day that was the difference between a win and a loss.
When the going gets dirty, IMFC lose it
Sticking with the theory that the team only seems to play well under the most ideal of conditions, it’s been a trend this year that when games get chippy, IMFC usually flounder.
It’s rare for instance that a game full of yellow cards will result in the opposing team having a player getting sent off for a second caution. IMFC continue to be one of the most (if not the most) cautioned teams in the league, and undoubtedly lead MLS in red cards.
On Saturday it almost seemed that Orlando were fouling IMFC to get them off their game, and in the end it appeared to work. Both Venegas and Romero spent so much time yelling at the ref for whatever injustices they felt were done to them, that it was unsurprising that they did little to nothing productive on the pitch.
There’s no denying that there was very little cohesion between the IMFC players on the field. Maybe that had something to do with the fact that they kept losing their focus over every little foul and mishap.
In one instance, Venegas literally had to be held back by his teammates from accosting the referee. Too often this season we’ve seen Montréal players lose their minds over a call against them, and it doesn’t seem far-fetched at all to think that this is effecting their overall concentration on the field.