Fans of the Montreal Impact finally have something to celebrate! Saturday afternoon the team picked up their first win in MLS for 2015. Since the start of the new season, aside from their Champions League journey, the club has been having a rough time in league play. Heading into the match versus Real Salt Lake, they were still searching for their 1st league win.
They had been outscored 8-4 over their first five games going 0-3-2 sitting dead last in the MLS standings. It's a place that has become all too familiar with the Impact since last season. To make matters worse, after the midweek Amway Cup semi-final against rival TFC the club announced more bad news, as newly acquired striker Kenny Cooper suffered a knee injury that will most likely require surgery and is set to miss significant time. He would join, Justin Mapp, Cameron Porter, Donny Toia, Hassoun Camara and Victor Cabrera on the injured list. A team that was once called deep with talent has quickly thinned due to injuries to key players.
The doom and gloom surrounding the Montreal Impact was cast aside for the day, as the home side pounded Real Salt Lake, winning 4-1 in front of 12,158 fans at Stade Saputo, sending the crowd home happy. Although, there were some cracks, the back four of Coker, Soumare, Ciman and Miller did a very good job at limiting RSL's chances.
Here are few things that stood out the most for me
When it comes to Ciman, I find myself confused. For someone with so much skill and talent, it seems when he makes a mistake the club pays dearly. The experience he brings is undeniable, you can see by his actions on the pitch that he is committed and he cares. What baffles me is how his errors always seem to end up with the Impact conceding a goal. We all remember his tug on Pachuca's German Cano, in the quarter-finals of the CCL, that almost cost the Impact dearly.
Last week versus Portland a missed challenge on Nagbe forced Bush into a diving save. Midweek the team he was twice exposed once when he half heartedly tried to pressure Altidore only to let him get by and put his chance away and then again with a missed challenge on Giovinco who also buried the ball in the back of the net moments later. Yesterday a missed tackle on Luis Gil, was the root cause of Real Salt Lake's only goal. Of course I am not trying to say that Ciman is a liability, because I do believe that the defence is better with him in the back.
I also am convinced that his partnership with Baky Soumare will become one of the best in MLS. I realize that MLS is a different game from European football and it may just be a learning curve, getting to know his teammates, and a new system. Maybe he is just trying to hard, and needs to see that sometimes less is more. I love Ciman's will to start up the attack out of the back and his searching long balls are very often right on the money. He brings a dynamic to the back line that was sorely missing last year, his physical presence is a welcomed one. Also like I mentioned earlier, he did get the opening goal for the Impact on the corner kick, and I am sure it won't be his last.
Goals! Goals! Goals!
For all the flack that Joey Saputo has taken for not being able to find a true number 9 DP to replace Marco Di Vaio, Montreal's attack was firing on all cylinders yesterday. Since the beginning of the year, everyone knew that in order for the club to be successful they would have to find a way to generate more goals from the midfield, and today, they did just that. I have not been much of a fan of Marco Donadel, and I found myself worrying if the early booking would come back to haunt the team, but he seemed to settle down.
Since his arrival though, the one aspect of his game that I have come to appreciate is his dead ball deliveries. With Donadel behind the ball taking corners and free kicks, it was only a matter of time before the Impact would find the back of the net. It is something that the team had been lacking. Last week, Donadel almost found the back of the net on a free kick. On Saturday, the Impact finally found a set piece goal. It was just what they needed an early goal to get the crowd on their feet, on a beautifully delivered corner kick from Donadel, that Belgian international Laurent Ciman got on the end of to open the scoring.
In the opening half, to say that last year's team MVP Andres Romero was lively would be an understatement! His combination with Piatti on his first goal was sublime, and could very well be a goal of the week candidate. The club also got another great game out of speedster Dominic Oduro. He could have had a couple of goals on the day, if not for some fine saves from Rimando. It was his patience with the ball at his feet that gave Piatti a chance to get on the score sheet with a penalty shot late in the first half but the Argentine was denied by a diving Rimando.
Although it was very slight, he also helped create space on Romero's first goal by starting to continue his run along the wing. It caused Olave to take a couple of steps in his direction just as Piatti chipped the ball overhead in to the path Romero, by the time Olave saw what was happening it was too late, and Romero was not going to be denied. Overall, I found the Impact's attack was relentless, and it was refreshing to see. Even after being ahead 3-0, they did not sit back and wait for the final whistle, they kept looking for ways to expose RSL.
I mentioned it off the top that injuries seem to be adding up fast for the Impact and it has to be concerning for the medical staff. While I don't know the extent of Dominic Oduro's injury, if he is forced to miss an extended period of time, it will not go un-noticed! I feel that he has found his groove, carving out opportunities for himself and has improved on his passing. He is not perfect but he has been a steady and reliable force on the right side of the midfield as well as up top as the lone striker.
The good news for Klopas is that now that the Amway Canadian Cup is on a break, he can have the players all focused and ready for MLS games. There will be midweek games coming up, and the coaching staff will have to make sure that the right mix of players are rotated in and out, and at the correct time. Klopas at least showed a willingness to rotate players during midweek versus TFC so, I am sure this will not be an issue. Players will just have to make sure that when they are called upon they delivery!
FC Dallas up next!
Saturday's win should go a long way in proving to the players that if they buy in and continue to put the work in they can be very successful. Yes, RSL has been struggling so far this yeat, but let's be honest they are a strong team and have the talent to punish any team in the league. The Impact got what they needed, both from a moral standpoint as well as the big 3 points.
While still last in the Eastern Conference they are now 5 points back of Toronto FC for the final playoff spot and have 3 games in hand. As we all know, games in hand are only worth something if you win them! Next up for Montreal another home game versus Supporter's Shield leaders FC Dallas, who battled to a nil-nil draw at home, with the NYRB. Needless to say, if the Impact can get a win next weekend it would huge! One thing is certain, they will have to be as stingy at the back and as clinical in front of goal as they were against RSL.