The Montréal Impact held on for a well earned, 2-1 win versus the West-leading FC Dallas on Saturday, in a game that saw the Impact continue to gain confidence in the final third. The Impact once again created a number of chances off of good transitional play, none better than the team’s second goal, scored by Jack McInerney.
I’ve been mentioning lately that there have been signs of McInerney and Piatti developing chemistry on the pitch, and it came to fruition in a big way on Saturday, as the two hooked up for an expertly executed one-two finish.
Jack-Mac was in the press this week, and it wasn’t necessarily for the right reasons. Called out by his coach for needed to string together more consistent performances to lock down the No. 1 striker role, the American-born forward fired back that he would let the goals speak for themselves.
McInerney did indeed silence his critics with the winning goal on Saturday, but it’s actually his passing skills and awareness on transitional breakouts that have really impressed me of late, and from the look of things, garnered a lot of respect from his teammates.
At the beginning of the year it seemed like Piatti and Duka didn’t notice him on the pitch, so he began to work harder on his runs and movement. This didn’t really come to much, however. It was only when McInerney began to drop further back in the team’s counterattacks that he really started to see more of the ball.
You wouldn’t expect your striker to have to start attacks in order to get more key passes in the box, but that is precisely how McInerney has become more of a central figure in the Impact’s offense.
It’s not entirely surprising when you think about it. Piatti is not a classic central attacking mid, in that he tends to want to dribble and create off of his moves, rather than off of his passes. Romero and Duka, who play on the wings, are similar to Piatti in style, as they both use their speed and trickery to create chances.
This leaves the less speedy and less skilled McInerney no choice but to rely on his positioning and instincts to mix in well with his attacking partners. It’s altogether possible that he has never played with forwards like these; ones who are not say, greedy, but not exactly generous either.
For many games I’d been saying that Piatti needed to move the ball quicker, and that if he continued to be selfish with the ball, it would only hurt the team in the short and long term. I never thought that McInerney would be the one to turn around the team’s fortunes with his passing acumen, but that is exactly what’s happened. The Impact’s transitional offense now creates much better opportunities because they move up the pitch as a unit.
It’s now a common occurrence to see McInerney begin the Impact’s attack with a deft flick or head-on to one of his teammates before running on into empty space to accept a return pass. Once a player who spent a lot of time waiting around for something to happen, he now more often than not gets the ball rolling (pun not intended), making for a much more fluid and dynamic offense.
You best protect ya’ net!
(Wu-Tang Klan reference, see google)
Despite coming away with the win, the Impact continued to show their defensive fragility, specifically in the box. Let’s face it: those last 15 minutes were a horror show.
Down 2-0, we always knew a high-flying Dallas attack would come on strong. They threw more men forward, sacrificing defence for offense, and so it was not surprising that Montréal spent those last 10-15 minutes playing a super defensive, counter-attack style of play.
What was a bit disheartening was how they defended. Sure fatigue was an issue, but the overall lack of quality on header clearances was fully on display. There also seemed to be a lot of confusion on marking assignments in the box. To me, that’s more down to a lack of preparation on the practice pitch than tired minds losing focus.
Obviously injuries didn’t help. The game ended with two defenders, Ambroise Oyongo and Donny Toia, playing maybe not fully match-fit. Having two players, one brand new, playing in such a difficult situation late in the game, definitely contributed to the sloppiness and communication issues at the back.
With the offense now clicking on all cylinders, hopefully the coaching staff will now spend a little more time focusing on shoring up the defense, with a special attention to man-marking and communication in the box.