The Montreal Impact collected their all important 1st road win of the 2015 season on Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio. To say the team is relieved would be an understatement! Frank Klopas and company put an end to an excruciatingly long 25-game winless streak. Finally, the team can prepare for road games without having wonder if and when they would break the winless spell.
Saturday night's result was great for a number or reasons. Since Cameron Porter went down with an injury during the Champions League run it seems as though every match since, another player has joined the injured list. The good news is this year the club is much deeper at most positions and some of recent academy grads have been able to find some extra playing time. Players such as Wandrille Lefevre and Maxim Tissot were given starts and looked very comfortable in Columbus. Their performance will surely give coach Frank Klopas something to think about over the coming weeks.
Needless to say, it was a big boost of confidence for a team that has been playing well at home again, but not being able to put together a strong 90 minutes on the road. While there were areas on concern against the Columbus Crew, the end result is what mattered most on the night.
Games in hand and tight schedule
The team found a way to pick up their first 3 points, on the road, and have begun to climb back into the mix, and out of the MLS cellar in the standings. With 14 points through 10 games the Impact now find themselves in 8th place in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the Chicago Fire and the big spending expansion club NYCFC. The big factor here is the team still has 4 games in hand on Columbus, who sit just two points ahead of Montreal for the final playoff spot, and 6 games in hand on conference leaders DC United.
During the month of June, the Impact will be on the road for the next 3 out 4 matches, with the first coming up against David Villa and NYCFC at Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx. A familiar foe who will most likely be in the lineup for NYCFC to face the Impact, is one time fan favorite, Jeb Brovsky who has featured in all but one match for his new team.
Throughout the rest of the month, the Impact will also have travel dates to arch rival Toronto FC, and Philadelphia, two teams that seem to be finding their ways in recent weeks. It will be crucial that Montreal find a way to grind out results during these road games in order to continue closing the gap between themselves and that final playoff spot.
It might sound crazy now, but looking ahead at the rest of the schedule, you could argue that the away games this month could have massive implications on whether or not the Impact make the post season. With so many injuries to key players right now if the team can be successful on the road, when players begin to make their way back into the line up it will only make them stronger and tougher to beat.
Next month the Impact will play four matches, three of which will be at Saputo Stadium. The month of August will be a massive test as the team will be faced with a total of seven matches including two (home & away) versus Vancouver for the Canadian Championships, luckily four of those will again be at home. September is also another travel friendly month for the club as they will have four of six at home.
To close out the MLS season Montreal will have 4 of 5 on the road, and of the 5 games 4 will be against teams that will most probably be in the hunt for post season play with match-ups versus the likes of NYRB, OCFC and the Revs.
Obviously the team will have to pick up points on the road throughout the rest of the season, and one win will not be the 'be all and end all' but it can go a long way in building momentum and confidence that they will surely need down the road. Following Saturday's win TSN 690 analyst Grant Needham said that he felt this team is built for success on the road due to their style of play and I have to say I completely agree. There is no reason why the Impact cannot continue to find success on the road.
Frank Klopas has taken a lot of heat (some very deserving) when it comes to roster selections and in game adjustments and substitutions but one thing that I was pleased to see was his inclusion of Tissot and Lefevre getting time on the field.
I don't know if he would have been as eager to give them minutes if everyone was healthy, but it gave the players a chance to prove their worth. As I pointed out earlier the month of August and September are going to be jam packed with games so the more players that can get involved the better.
The best thing for the Impact is to focus on the next game, which is a visit to the legendary Yankee stadium to play against NYCFC who have been struggling to find their way so far this season. I believe that if the players can keep their focus for 90 minutes they can record back to back road wins!
Also, a win would see the Impact move to 17 points on the year and draw level with NYRB in 5th spot. This is definitely a game that is winnable.