Wow! That first half was a statement from our Montreal Impact.
The Impact took to the pitch Sunday without star striker Didier Drogba and I admit, I was worried about the Impact's goal scoring abilities. Well, singlehandedly, Piatti proved me wrong.
The designated player put on a dazzling performance with two goals and a decisive pass. Our Argentinian all-star also led MLS fantasy with 20 points. Yet the most impressive part of his first game was that first goal. He has the innate ability to make defenders freeze or deke them out of their shorts and that is exactly what he did on that first goal.
Here are my thumbs up and thumbs down for this week 1 performance.
1-Ignacio Piatti: There is not much more that can be said about Piatti's performance. Mauro Biello gave him the arm band and the midfielder led by example. Aside from his two beautiful goals, Piatti orchestrated Oduro's 41st minute goal.
The Argentine also led the team with 4 centering crosses. On the down side, the entire team only centered the ball 8 times compared to the Whitecaps' fifteen. The Impact's play maker also forced the Whitecaps to foul him twice.
2-Dominic Oduro: The speedy Ghanaian kept up his good performance from the pre-season. Oduro scored the Impact's second goal off of a mistake made by the Whitecap's keeper Dave Ousted yet his contribution to the game did not end there.
In the 87th minute, Oduro cleverly bounced the ball over Whitecap defender Tim Parker and smartly played the ball on to Piatti who finished the manoeuvre by masterfully finding the back of Ousted's net.
3-Evan Bush: Another great showing by the American keeper, the celebration after the game must have been even sweeter for the Ohio native who was also celebrating his 30th birthday.
Bush's most spectacular save came in the 67th minute when he denied Octavio Rivero’s header. All the Uruguayan could do was stand with arms outstretched and marvel at the save he just witnessed.
During the night, Bush stood tall and denied the Whitecaps 8 times. On the down side, Bush lacked precision on his goal kicks and repeatedly sent the ball sailing over the sideline.
1-Set piece defending: One of the first things Evan Bush mentioned in his pre-game media conference was the menace the Whitecaps represent on set pieces. He was spot on.
In the 44th minute, Pedro Morales delivered a beautiful ball onto the 6 yard line and Harvey who had got around Oyongo with ease kneed the ball into the back of the net.
On the Whitecaps second goal, Kendall Waston sailed over Anthony Jackson-Hamel to head the ball into the back of the net. On multiple corner kicks, we saw Whitecap players head the ball towards Bush's net and force the keeper to make the save. During the season, the Impact will have to practice and improve their defending of set pieces.
2-Lateral defenders/fullbacks : On Sunday, Ambroise Oyongo played at his more natural position of left back and Donny Toia played at right back. The lateral defenders took full advantage of their positions and supported the attack on numerous occasions.
I found that Toia and Oyongo concentrated too much on their offensive responsibilities and often left our defence thread-bare to face imposing attacks from the Whitecaps. Ciman and Cabrera looked abandoned on the back four.
Ciman saved the Impact on a few occasions with acrobatic scissor kick clearances. I think some participation from the lateral defenders is essential to the Impact's attack yet Toia and Oyongo need to learn how to balance their offensive and defensive responsibilities.
All in all, the Montreal Impact turned in a very solid performance against the Vancouver Whitecaps. We seemed to find a good offensive groove but we still have some minor defensive issues to fix.
Furthermore, Sunday's victory was the Impact's first away win in Canada in MLS play. After Sunday’s game, I really look forward to seeing what this season has in store and how much better the Impact can perform with the great Ivorian in the lineup.