The Columbus Crew have been struggling this season after making the MLS finals last year. The Crew have yet to win a game this year. The Impact profited from Columbus' poor start to the season. On Saturday, the Montreal Impact beat the Columbus crew 2-0 in front of more than 22 000 fans. This was a reassuring win for our Impact after losing the previous two matches in Dallas and Seattle. Here are my thumbs up and thumbs down for this week's performance against the Columbus Crew.
Aerial Play: Last week I criticized the Impact's aerial presence in both the offensive and defensive zones. I was not the only one who found that the Impact had trouble in the air. Mauro Biello dedicated most of this week's training sessions to practising offensive and defensive aspects of corners and set pieces.
All that training definitely paid off. In the 49th minute, Hassoun Camara netted the first goal of the game from Ontivero's corner with what one Columbus announcer described as a thumping header. Later,
Erik Kyle Bekker doubled the Impact's lead when he converted on Ambroise Oyongo's perfect cross. Bekker's goal was also a header.
The Impact's only aerial goals of the season both came this week versus Columbus. The Impact also did a very good job of covering the 6'3" Kei Kamara who is a constant threat in the air.
Performance Rating: Hassoun Camara 8/10 Kyle Bekker 6.5/10 (he had a few defensive mistakes)
Back Four: Ever since Laurent Ciman joined the Impact's back line at the start of last season, the Impact's defense has been one of the best in the league. On Saturday, Ciman and his defensive partners held the Crew and their superstars off the scorecard.
The Crew's attack, led by Kamara and Frederico Higuaín was the 2nd most productive in the MLS in 2015. Our back four held Columbus to only 2 shots on target. Except for a brief lapse of concentration in the final 15 minutes of the first half, Ciman and company stymied the Crew's offense. Our back four had an impressive performance versus one of the league's most dangerous and talented attack.
Performance Rating: Donny Toia 7/10 Laurent Ciman 9/10 Victor Cabrera 8/10 Hassoun Camara 8/10
Harry Shipp: In the first two games of the season, the young American impressed me. He seemed to have nice chemistry with Ignacio Piatti. However, in the past three games, the Chicago native has not made a positive impact on any of the games.
With Piatti being well marked, we will need players like Harry Shipp to step out of the shadows and create opportunities. Simply stated, Shipp has not created enough chances on the pitch. In the past few games, Shipp has not been a noticeable presence for the Impact.
Performance Rating: Harry Shipp 4.5/10
Dominic Oduro: During the Impact's first 2 matches, Oduro proved that he is much more than a glorified sprinter. He demonstrated that he has the ability to score and that he even has some fancy moves. Sadly, over the past few games, the speedy Ghanaian has seemed out of sync with his attacking team mates and has lacked finishing. For example, in Saturday's game, Oduro had a great chance in the 55th minute. The ball fell to his feet right on the penalty spot but he sent his shot straight at Columbus keeper Steve Clark.
Performance Rating: Dominic Oduro 5.5/10
All in all, our Montreal Impact put on a good showing on Saturday. Even though certain players were not a their best, the team as a whole played well and left the Big O with all 3 points. The improvement in the Impact's aerial play was remarkable and it should only get better with Didier Drogba in the squad. Next week in Chicago, we should see the great Ivorian hit the pitch and I hope that our star striker will be able to raise our game to an even higher level.