I guess we’ll never really know how good or bad Frank Klopas would have been with an IMFC team led by Didier Drogba, but, as they say, onwards and upwards. It’s probably too early to say if Mauro Biello is a better tactician than the man he replaced, but one thing is certain: this team really plays hard for their new manager.
After coming back from being down a man and a goal on Wednesday to tie San Jose, followed by winning convincingly 3-0 (also down a man) on Saturday versus New England, Mauro Biello is pushing the right buttons. With 8 points through his first 4 games (no losses), things couldn’t have started much better for the Montrealer.
The Drogba effect
Whichever way you cut it, the Montréal Impact are playing like a team that believe they can win any game, against anyone. Some of that has to do with a new coach and a more focused locker room, but lets face it, it mostly has to do with Drogba.
Not only have the players fed off of the Ivorian’s confidence, but they also have raised their game, too. For one, nobody wants to disappoint Drogba. They see how much he wants to win, and they in turn want to win that much more because of it. Secondly, all the players realize the opportunity they’ve been given with Drogba now on the team. It’s a once in-a-lifetime opportunity to not only play with Drogba, but win with him, too.
Clearly the intensity level of a lot of players has gone up. A player like Reo-Coker comes to mind. Here’s a player who didn’t seem to care so much early on in this season. Enter Drogba, and suddenly he’s playing as if he has something to prove (as well he should).
Johan Venegas had his best game of the season on Saturday against the Revolution. What difference was there in his performance from previous games? In a word: urgency. Like Reo-Coker for much of the season, I would describe the Costa Rican’s style of play to being mostly too complacent on the ball. On Saturday though, he was quick and forceful. This intensity was most clearly manifested in his desire to recuperate the ball, something that we’ve seen little of in his short time with the club.
With Drogba on the pitch, all the outfield players have a better understanding of what their role is, what their personal mission is. Against New England there was fluidity to the passing that we had not seen in a while. This comes from having confidence in your game plan, and most importantly, confidence in your striker.
A big moment for Kyle Bekker
Timing can be everything in a young athlete’s career. For Kyle Bekker, things may be falling into place for the Canadian at the most opportune time. After scoring the tying goal in the 1-1 draw with San Jose on Wednesday, the central midfielder earned some more playing time against the Revolution on Saturday. Bekker was impressive in both outings, showing that he has the aptitude to play in defensive midfield for the Impact.
What I like about Bekker so far is his decision-making, and the quickness with which he makes those decisions. He has a good head for the game, and sees the field really well. On Wednesday I saw a player who made plays confidently; there wasn’t a lot of second-guessing going on.
This season we’ve probably seen too much overthinking by all of the central midfielders on the Impact (and the wingers, too). Like Mapp, Bekker seems to bring a calmness and simplicity to the pitch that the team needs more of. Montreal is a team that has been guilty of over-complicating their playing style this year, so to me, Bekker is a welcome addition.
With Donadel suspended for 2-3 games and Mallace seemingly injured and potentially out for a while, we could be seeing a lot more of Bekker in the next few weeks.
Camara solid in return; defense continues to shine
It was really nice to see Hassoun Camara look as solid as he did in Wednesday’s 10-man draw versus the Earthquakes. Besides the comedy of errors/bad luck that led to Chris Wondolowski’s goal, the Frenchman was lively in his first game in months at CB. The rangy defender led his team in box clearances with 7, and rarely looked outmatched on headers in the area.
The defence overall has been on point since the coaching change, and again I think it’s a mixture of Mauro Biello and Didier Drogba giving the team a renewed sense of confidence and fight. There’s cohesiveness now among the players to defend as a unit that wasn’t as prevalent earlier in the year.
I know what Marco Donadel is thinking, and I do feel for him. He gets called for a borderline foul that ends up being deemed a bookable offense, and he loses it. For a player who is trying as hard as he can not to get a yellow, this is the kind of call that can get to you; and unfortunately it got the better of him. His red card tackle along the sideline moments later was more unnecessary than violent, but it’s hard to disagree with the referee. Sliding with your studs up into a player is almost always going to get you kicked out of a game.
Meanwhile, Ambroise Oyongo made a similar, more unnecessary-than-violent tackle on Wednesday that also got him sent off. He’s sent off not because of the intent, but instead because of the wildness of the tackle.
You want your players to be physical, but there is a time and place for everything. In both cases, there is no reason to go for a big tackle under the circumstances. You understand in Oyongo’s case, down a goal, that maybe he is trying to spark a potential counterattack with a big tackle, but that’s rather cynical considering where he’s making the tackle. For Donadel, it’s purely a case of a player who’s angry at the previous call and who’s lost his wits.
For both players, getting a couple of games to blow off some steam will probably do them some good.