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Montreal Impact Lose 1-0 to NYCFC in Split Squad Game

IMFC are 0-1 one game into the Rowdies Suncoast Invitational preseason tournament. Coach Mauro Biello fielded two different lineups over the two halves.

Montreal Impact forward Didier Drogba signs autographs after the game against New York City FC at Al Lang Stadium.
Montreal Impact forward Didier Drogba signs autographs after the game against New York City FC at Al Lang Stadium.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For the first half of last Wednesday's game, Mauro Biello fielded this lineup:

Porter

Venegas                                        Salazar

Shipp            Mallace

Donadel

Tissot          Lefevre     Cabrera          Toia

Kronberg

According to the pre-game graphics, the lineup was referred to as a 4-5-1. There were, however, moments in the first half in which the formation would morph in and out of a 4-3-3 with Johan Venegas and Michael Salazar pushing up and Harry Shipp and Calum Mallace dropping wide.

The most interesting aspect of this formation for Impact fans was watching the way in which Marco Donadel, Shipp, and Mallace positioned themselves in the midfield. That's because this threesome is who many are expecting to be the regular season starters who are going to carry the majority of the minutes together.

What Impact fans saw from their central midfielders was that Donadel was the single and clear defensive/holding midfielder, while Shipp spent the majority of his time attempting to pitch into the offense, and Mallace played the role of a box-to-box midfielder.

Here are some other quick thoughts on player performances:

Porter: Struggled to be a factor but worked very hard and made himself available for outlet passes.

Venegas: Seemed much more comfortable than last year and handled physicality better too.

Salazar: Began the half with a few uncomfortable moments and then created some great chances late.

Shipp: Mostly inconsequential, no surprise he is still looking to gel with his new team.

Mallace: Covered lots of ground and was present at both ends of field.

Donadel: Looked strong and in control, struck a beautiful free kick which hit the post.

Tissot: Improved as the half progressed but still looks more comfortable as a midfielder.

Lefevre: Appeared very strong, knows he is competing with Cabrera for a starting role in the middle.

Cabrera: Solid performance, physical presence on the back end.

Toia: Played on the right side, beaten once badly but an overall solid outing.

Kronberg: Was good, but maybe not good enough to dethrone Evan Bush.

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For the second half of last Wednesday's game, Mauro Biello fielded this lineup:

Jackson-Hamel

Williams                                     Gagnon-Lapare

Bernier         Bekker

Alexander

Oyongo            Ciman      Cabrera             Toia

Kronberg

*Cabrera would be subbed out for Kyle Fisher.

*Bernier would be subbed out for Louis Beland-Goyette.

*Jackson-Hamel would suffer an injury and be subbed out for Eric Verso. Verso and Williams would then switch spots.

This was again technically a 4-5-1 in which Eric Alexander appeared to the set holding midfielder while Patrice Bernier pushed the offensive side of the ball and Kyle Bekker played the role of box-to-box midfielder. However, this trio was far more fluid in their positioning than the first central midfielding trio (Donadel/Shipp/Mallace). Bernier often found himself helping the centre backs and Alexander even scored a goal on a long pass from Donny Toia that wasn't a goal (but really was a goal).

Romario Williams and Anthony Jackson-Hamel showed some pretty interesting chemistry. The two created the lion's share of Montreal's offense in the second half. Jackson-Hamel up the middle and Williams on the left gave the team a decent mix of size, speed, and power. Pushing right behind Williams on the left side was Ambroise Oyongo. Oyongo was the only Impact full back to push the attack. This is likely something the coaching staff has asked of him, and legitimizes his move to the left side as he is left-footed.

Kyle Fisher had a rough first outing. And speaking of rough, it's hard to think that the Impact were lucky enough to get a player like Toia in the Chivas dispersal draft. Preseason or not, Toia showed a lot of pluck. He was the only Impact player to play every single minute except for goalkeeper Eric Kronberg. This should come as no surprise as Toia led all Montreal field players in minutes played last season.

Here are some other quick thoughts on player performances:

Jackson-Hamel: Showed good potential as a forward off the bench if management prefer Dominic Oduro on the right side.

Williams: Seemed comfortable as an attacker on the left side, has good vision and can pass.

Gagnon-Lapare: Used to playing a more central role, mostly disappeared on the right side.

Bernier: Showed some vigor but is still rounding into regular season form.

Bekker: Had moments but didn't impose himself on the game in any way.

Alexander: Seemed to not get many touches on the ball then scored a goal that was onside that was offside.

Oyongo: Good to see him pushing up the left side, may have held onto the ball for a step or two too long.

Ciman: No doubt he'll be ready for the regular season and still has the temper.

Fisher: Not the start he was hoping for, looked out of place or like the game was moving too fast for him.

Toia: Actually threw a few dirty shots near the right sideline in the last minutes, very enjoyable.

Kronberg: Didn't do any worse than Bush would have.

Beland-Goyette: Didn't have many minutes but looked like another year with FC Montreal could be good for his development.

Verso: Did not play enough to gauge.

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Who did you think stood out?