Man of the Match: Ignacio Piatti
Nacho! Nacho! Nacho!
I mean is there anything that this man did not do in today's game?
Going into the game, the voices of many pundits were predicting that this team would not be able to produce any goals without the legendary Didier Drogba at the striker position. They pointed to a team from last season, when prior to Drogba's arrival, was a team plagued with poor finishing and void of any offensive creativity.
Well Impact fans, this is not the same Klopas-led team from last year. This squad displays an offensive creativity that could even get an impartial fan excited. The midfield trio of Piatti, Shipp and Ontivero was exceptional, creating space for each other, and running into open space, where they were able to display they're special technical ability, especially Nacho. Although advertised as starting in a more central role, Piatti eventually shifted to a more wide position on the left side of the pitch.
This is where Piatti shined tonight. That first goal, was nothing short of an absolute piece of masterclass technical ability, manipulating the Vancouver defense as if they had concrete for boots. How many people did he beat? Two? Eight? The Planet?
By the time the ball was at the back of the net, sprinkled with a few nutmegs, it certainly felt that way. For any of you wondering, this is what it looks like for a single player in a team sport to take over a game by himself. Nobody was going to stop him.
From this point, Nacho continued to dominate the open space afforded to him by the Vancouver Whitecaps defense.
On the second goal of the game, Piatti was able to spot a run by Oduro, our own version of Usain Bolt, and placed a ball in a location that allowed the Ghanean striker to create an opportunity for himself, one that he was able to capitalize on.
And finally, that third goal, one where many fans may have been clamoring that he had waited too long before shooting, and then were absolutely amazed by his ability to sneak the ball into the corner. This is a lesson in the play of Piatti and what makes him so special, just when you think he's made one too many moves, he manages to find a way to pull it off anyways.
You can already see how the offense is custom built for a lone striker, that being Didier, to star and score goals. Nacho proved that he is capable of being the distraction that Didier needs on the opposite side of the field, drawing defenders towards him before giving the ball to Shipp for a perfectly placed ball at the feet of Drogba.
Honorable Mention: Evan Bush
If not for the heroics of Piatti tonight, Bush is easily the MOTM. Hell, a lot of you may think he was anyways, and I have no reason to dispute that. Evan Bush was nothing short of world class tonight, which some may think is hyperbolic, but I for one have not seen an MLS goalkeeper, let alone many world class European goalkeepers make saves like Bush did tonight.
The second half reactionary saves were spectacular, balls that were poorly defended just yards away from the goal line were some how knocked away from the line. Bush also displayed fantastic tracking of the ball in the air tonight, shielding the ball from attacking defenders. If there is one negative from his game tonight, it would be his inability to keep the ball inbounds off dead balls.
How many times did he boot the ball out of bounds off of a free kick? While not a huge problem, this needs to be fixed by the coaching staff. Who would have thought three years ago, that Evan Bush would display this quality of play on a weekly basis.
Credit to the front office for keeping him around.
Surprise Performance: Eric Alexander
The Impact posed a question on twitter prior to kickoff tonight, that being what would your ideal starting XI be for the game. The majority of fans chose the same lineup, with one major outlier, that being the split between fans on who should start between Callum Mallace and Eric Alexander, in the position beside Marco Donadel.
While not sold on either of the two, I was partial to having Mallace start, due to his presence in the same position on many occasions last season. However, Alexander was a very pleasant surprise tonight. A lot of you may be going, "What?!?! I didn't even hear Alexander's name in the broadcast!!". But this is the beauty of a good holding midfielder, the less you hear their name, the less mistakes they are making.
Think of the best at the position in the world, do you ever hear Sergio Busquets name in the telecasts? Rarely. Alexander played a very understated game tonight, made key tackles and moved the ball to the attacking midfielders with efficiency. While not easy to notice to the untrained eye, I believe Alexander more then proved his worth to be in the starting XI, and is deserving of staying there moving forward, until he himself gives a reason to change it.
Most Disappointing Performance: Ambroise Oyongo and Donny Toia
Last season, I preached to anybody that would listen, that this team needed to utilize their fullbacks in a more attacking role, pushing up the field in order to provide another outlet on the attack. In preseason, Mauro Biello seemed to begin to set the foundation for this, as he wanted to make his attack even more creative than what it was already shaping to be with the new offseason additions, and for the most part it seemed like it would pay off.
However against Vancouver, and this may seem hypocritical, I did not like how high the fullbacks were playing. Yes, it added something to the offense, but on multiple occasions, both got caught high and Vancouver was able to put the ball into open space on the counter attack, many of which were able to be cut off by the class play from Ciman.
While I love the idea of pushing our fullbacks forward, both Toia and Oyongo need to be careful not to get too excited with their offensive roles. To add to this, and this criticism possibly belongs to the entire backline, the defending on the set pieces was very poor. Oyongo himself, was caught ball watching on the first goal against, something that cannot happen at this level of soccer. While frustrating to watch, these are very fixable problems, and I can see both players having a rebound game next week against New York.
Man of the Match Awards - Thus Far
Ignacio Piatti - 1
But that's just one man's opinion. Let me know who your Man of the Match was by tweeting @javiergonz1994, or leave a comment down below! #IMFC