Just to be clear and so we understand the big picture, the New York Red Bulls, FC Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps FC are the top three teams in the Supporters Shield standings from 2015. That's a rough way to start the year, also a good measuring stick for where the Montreal Impact stands early in 2016. We've seen how dominant Montreal can and has been the first two games.
Now we've seen a less convincing performance, but still a game they were competitive in for long periods. Dallas came out looking the better prepared team; their system seemed to take advantage of Montreal's weakness all night. They blew past Montreal's midfield repeatedly and at will. We saw them go over the midfield or around it, but mostly they went right through the heart of it with little resistance.
A few weeks ago I talked about how important Marco Donadel will be for the Impact in 2016 when playing the better teams, this game was a perfect example. The lack of depth and experience in Montreal's midfield is their biggest weakness, and will be all year long unless something changes. This same team is exponentially better with Marco Donadel in the lineup. While his absence was felt less against the Red Bulls, we must realize Calum Mallace had a well above par game that day. Hope we see more of that Mallace.
Mauro Diaz was a threat every time he touched the ball. He enjoyed too much freedom, which would not have been the case had Donadel been on the field. Donadel's distribution was also missing; there was very little exchange between Montreal's defensive 6 and attacking 4.
Oduro was invisible for most of the game. We just couldn't get him involved. Dallas seemed to block every play and ball in the midfield. The only way through the midfield would've been to drop all the attacking players into a 4-6-0 formation and move it up through possession, as opposed to the quick break with which Montreal seems more apt.
Oscar Pareja out coached Mauro Biello this round. Expect to see some changes to the pressing style applied (or not applied if you prefer) by Montreal. The low-press 4-4-2 defensive formation adopted by Biello against Dallas didn't work, there was absolutely no pressure being applied by the mids and forwards. The only moment Montreal would challenge a player was when the ball reached the last line of defense. The Impact showed them too much respect, and was obviously afraid to challenge their highly skilled dribblers.
We can't really blame Mauro, it could have worked with a little luck, and the team was still in it for a point at 79'. I hope to see a return to the 4-1-5 high-press defensive formation Biello applied late 2015.
- Lucas Ontivero: he was fair in his defensive duties, this was one aspect of his game that concerned some analysts. He once again showed good attacking vision and boldness going to the net. The most dangerous Montreal player Saturday night.
- Laurent Ciman / Victor Cabrera: Once again a solid partnership
- Didier Drogba showed up.
- We need Donadel and Patrice Bernier back and healthy for the season. Bernier will be vital to cover when Donadel and Alexander are missing. Mallace seemed to be missing some confidence covering the back-line against Dallas' talented forwards.
- Harry Shipp looked like the new guy we expected to see the first two games. He wasn't terrible, he just seemed new in the formation. Missed a fair share of passes and didn't contribute as much as we saw the first two games. He'll turn it around.
- Evan Bush was caught flat footed and out of position for both Dallas goals. In his defense, they were both excellent shots, I just feel he would've stopped at least one of those on a usual night. Must also mention, this most likely would not have changed the outcome of the match.
The Impact can now enjoy a 13-day break after a challenging start to the 2016 season. Should help heal some of the bumps and bruises. Next up: Seattle Sounders on April 2nd, who've had a surprisingly slow start to 2016.