The Montréal Impact started this game looking like they were down a man, and in a way maybe they were, as it became clear pretty early on that RB Víctor Cabrera was not 100% match fit for this contest. The Impact fell behind 1-0 after some pretty shoddy defense on the right side, and when the second half kicked off, Cabrera was out of the game, subbed off for forward Anthony Jackson-Hamel.
It was not a coincidence that the team looked much more fluid and effective for most of the second half. Even Reo-Coker, who usually struggles at RB, looked much better than the Argentinian loanee.
You might argue that one player struggling shouldn’t lead the entire team to play poorly, but when it’s a defensive player, it sort of can.
A good offense needs a good defense
Shaky defending can lead to poor distribution from the back, and we saw just that in the first half. Montréal’s defense seemed hesitant to string passes together, deciding instead to launch the ball deep to McInerney or Piatti. This is not the way IMFC play when they’re a confident side.
As a result, they mustered very little offensively in the first half. Meanwhile, NYCFC spent the better part of the half with the ball, and most of that time was spent attacking Cabrera’s side of the defense.
I hate to pick out one particular player to explain why a team plays poorly, and in Cabrera’s defense, he not only was coming off of an injury, but was playing out of position at RB. The fact that Klopas felt that he was the best fit at that position to start the game, speaks more to our injuries woes and players missing than anything else.
To Klopas’ credit, he made a change a halftime that greatly helped the squad, and it wouldn’t have been a big surprise if IMFC had found an equalizer in the second half. It didn’t turn out that way, as NYCFC scored the critical add-on goal, but the Impact did manage to claw their way back into the game after struggling mightily in the first half.
IMFC+Piatti on a baseball field=ugly game
Elsewhere, the game underlined a trend we’ve seen all year long, and that is when Piatti struggles, the offense struggles. It’s understandable; he probably gets the most touches up front, and he creates space for his teammates when he’s on his game. Unfortunately for IMFC, the Argentinian never really found his footing in this contest and the offense was stunted for a majority of the game as a result.
As a player you don’t want use the field condition or dimensions as an excuse, but I’ll go ahead and do it for them. IMFC play a style that requires a big pitch, as they like to get into open space with their passes. Piatti especially enjoys making marauding runs, and it was evident early on that he was stifled by both the smallness of the pitch and NYCFC’s pressure on the ball.
Also, I’m sorry, but that field is completely unacceptable. I’m actually flabbergasted that MLS let NYCFC play on it, even for one season. It’s way too small, and what’s with the dips near the corner flags? The game was almost unwatchable, I thought, as the lack of space really hindered players to make nice runs and create fluid, attractive football play.
Sure, the home-side were definitely the hungrier of the two sides, but I think that was down to them being more comfortable on the pitch than the IMFC players. It’s not a great excuse, but players tend to play with more positive energy when they look comfortable on the pitch, and Montréal never really did.
The good, the bad, and the Bernier
To make matters worse for IMFC, two of their more reliable of players of late, Lefèvre and Bernier, made critical errors that resulted in NYCFC’s second and third goals. Bernier missed a fairly simple clearance on the final goal, and Lefèvre played too casual with the ball in the defensive third on the second, a play which reminded me a little of Soumare’s mistake against Chicago that led to Shipp’s goal.
Both plays took place in games where IMFC struggled with team chemistry and focus, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think confidence is fleeting with this team; when things are going well they look like world-beaters, but when things aren’t clicking, the worst teams in MLS can beat them.
Montréal have gotten over the hump of winning a game on the road, but now their new challenge is to find a way to get a result when they’re not at their best, as was the case on Saturday.
Some players were still in decent form, with Ciman and Romero playing well, and Lefèvre showing some nice resolve by bouncing back after his critical error. But Piatti and McInerney’s lack of implication was evident, and Alexander was unsurprisingly ineffective at LW.
The team looked more engaged after they went to a 4-4-2 in the second half, but it’s getting a little tiresome to see Klopas not commit to moving Piatti out wide. There was literally nothing happening on the left side of the pitch offensively, and I think that could have been easily resolved by moving Piatti to the left and Alexander into the middle.
All in all it was a disappointing performance by the Impact, but like the result in Chicago, not completely surprising or disconcerting.
Back to life, back to reality
With players returning from injury, international leave and suspension, I have no doubt that we’ll see a revitalized and confident side versus Orlando next week. Getting Oyongo back will be the biggest returnee, as he has been mostly excellent at RB for the Impact thus far.
Besides the fact that IMFC are due for some upgrades in the coming weeks via the July transfer window, it would be nice to see what this team can do with a somewhat stable starting XI. It shouldn’t be too much to ask to see each player play in his natural position, but that rarely has been the case this year.
One thing is clear: The Impact can't wait to play on a normal pitch this coming weekend.