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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Montreal Impact set the stage for dramatic second leg

MLS: Eastern Conference Championship-Toronto FC at Montreal Impact
Mancosu celebrated after scoring the Impact’s 2nd goal
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Ok guys, it’s been a while but your beloved thumbs up, thumbs down is back.

On Tuesday night, the Montreal Impact faced off versus their bitter Canadian rivals, Toronto FC. The Impact were playing in front of the largest crowd in their MLS history. Over 61,000 fans packed into the Olympic Stadium to witness Montreal jump out to a convincing early lead thanks to Dominic Oduro and Matteo Mancosu. Ambroise Oyongo added to the Impact’s lead in the 2nd half with a brilliant solo effort. The Impact were up 3-0 and visions of the MLS final were dancing in our heads until the wheels fell off the bus and Toronto netted two all-important away goals in the 2nd half to set the stage for a dramatic 2nd leg. Here are my thumbs up and thumbs down for the Impact’s historic 3-2 win over TFC.

Thumbs Up:

Front Three: Our three forwards, Matteo Mancosu, Dominic Oduro and Ignacio Piatti made an immediate impact on the game. As if propelled by the thunderous energy of the crowd, our front three combined to shock TFC with two beautiful goals within the opening 15 minutes of play. Mauro Biello has started the same attacking three since the start of the playoffs and they have developed a very interesting chemistry. On Tuesday, they were able to maintain possession in the offensive half as well as exploit the room on the counter attack.

With this dangerous trio up top, one question remains: have the Impact finally found their three headed beast? We have Ignacio Piatti who is arguably one of the best dribblers in the league and has the phenomenal ability to create scoring opportunities out of absolutely nothing. He feeds his teammates with unselfish service. Piatti also helped out by tracking back defensively. Next, we have Matteo Mancosu. The Italian quickly replaced legendary Didier Drogba as our starting striker. He is gifted with a great vision for the game and rapid pace. He has shown great poise with his finishing in front of goal as he has scored four times during the Impact’s four playoff games. Finally, we have the freaky fast Dominic Oduro. The Ghanaian has improved from his mid-season form. He is setting himself up better for runs behind the opposition’s back four and fully utilizing his blistering pace. Most importantly, his finishing has greatly improved. He has gone from not being able to hit the broad side of a barn to being relatively consistent in front of goal.

We have a front three that can compete with any of the other conference finalists.

Performance Ratings:

Ignacio Piatti: 7.5/10

Matteo Mancosu: 8.5/10

Dominic Oduro: 8/10

Exploiting Toronto’s Weaknesses: As expected, Toronto employed the unconventional 3-5-2 formation. While this formation does clog up the midfield with bodies and permit an effective high press, it does leave TFC extremely vulnerable to attacks via the flanks as they are lacking width at the back. That lack of width is exactly what the Impact exploited to score both of their early goals. On both occasions, the Impact recovered possession and quickly moved the ball out wide. That space out wide gave our forwards room to run and eventually gave us the room necessary to score. I was very happily surprised to see how effectively the Impact exploited the flaw in TFC’s game plan. We saw the impressive results: two early goals.

Thumbs Down:

Impact’s 2nd Half Meltdown: I will not obsess over the Impact’s breakdown; the painful memories are surely all too fresh for all of us. However, I will say that the Impact’s meltdown started after Oyongo scored his goal in the 53rd minute. The Impact took their foot off the gas. Their clearances were no longer an attempt to counter, they were last ditch efforts to clear their lines. We repeatedly cleared the ball straight back to Toronto’s waiting midfielders. Instead of relieving pressure, Toronto just kept on coming thanks to the balls we cleared to them.

When Toronto was circulating the ball around our box, they had many players deep in our own half. We were not able to adequately cover those bodies and that allowed Toronto to net two crucial away goals.

Despite that embarrassing late breakdown, the Impact still pulled off a massive 3-2 win in front of a noisy ruckus crowd of 61,004. The Montreal Impact will now enter Wednesday’s away leg match in Toronto with a slight advantage. In fact, any win or draw will see our Montreal Impact advance to the MLS final. However, in most situations in which the Impact lose, the despised TFC would advance to the final.