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Montréal Impact – A Week In Review: Winning=Higher Expectations

Shipp ready for a rebound in IMFC's 2-1 win over Chicago on Saturday.
Shipp ready for a rebound in IMFC's 2-1 win over Chicago on Saturday.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Montréal Impact welcomed back Didier Drogba on Saturday, and the big Ivorian wasted no time in making an impact, scoring the game-tying goal early in the second half. IMFC’s other big star, Ignacio Piatti, also contributed in a big way, scoring the winner in the dying seconds of the contest.

All in all, it was a fantastic result for Montréal, who notched their second road win of the season. To put that feat into perspective, Montréal didn’t manage their second road win until August 1st last year.

The times they are changing.

Room for Improvement

Whereas last year I would have taken a win on the road in any way, shape or form, this year my expectations have increased.  A win’s a win, no question about it, but let’s face it, it wasn’t exactly a dominating performance.

Say what you will about Chicago’s revamped lineup and more defensive style, I personally was underwhelmed by how IMFC moved the ball and created chances. The Chicago Fire is hardly a world-beater and besides, there was plenty of room on the pitch for IMFC to operate and create scoring chances: they just largely failed to.

Besides the goals, which came off a bad giveaway and a bit of magic from Piatti, the teams’s counterattacks and offensive buildups were constantly being stymied by no one other than themselves. This is the not the first time we’ve seen this either. Just last week we witnessed counter attack after counter attack go down the drain, so it’s not like this is anything new.

The problem in my eyes stems from an overreliance on one man: Nacho Piatti.  I know, I know, Piatti is everyone’s favorite for MLS Player of the Year, and believe me, you’re looking at one of his biggest fans, right here. That said, you don’t need to have the ball all game to be your team’s best player (or 2nd best player, says Didier). In fact, I’d go further and argue that the team is currently suffering from Piatti seeing too much of the ball, especially early in counterattacks.

Regardless of where Piatti lines up (he’s played on the left and in the middle), he always wants the ball early in a counterattack. As much as that’s a good thing, because you want a good dribbler to have the ball in that situation, it can also be a bad thing, because dribbling over long stretches rarely ends well. How often have we seen Piatti pick up the ball near midfield, dribble the ball to the opposing goal and score? Once, twice maybe? It’s not a recipe for success in my opinion.

Piatti is a player who’s all about trust. He doesn’t pass the ball much to Oduro because he doesn’t trust him. Frankly, he doesn’t pass the ball to just about anyone besides Drogba and maybe now Ontivero and Shipp. So suffice it to say that he doesn’t trust guys like Bekker and Alexander, who should be key cogs in offensive breakouts. If Piatti was one of the players to get the ball last (and closer to the opponent’s net) the chances of IMFC getting a Grade A chance would increase. Unfortunately, the way the team is currently being lined up, he feels like he has to do more to make these counter attacks work.

My solution? Put someone he does trust into a deeper, slightly more defensive role: Harrison Shipp.

Playmaking from the back

I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll say it again: Harrison Shipp would be much more useful to the team if he was currently playing deeper. Shipp’s best quality is his passing and vision on the pitch. I doubt he was brought on the team to be a main scorer, though he certainly has proven he can chip in offensively in the past. In Montréal, I see him not only as one of team’s main facilitators, but also as a reliable and creative link from the defence to the offence.

IMFC currently play a 4-2-3-1, and in recent games we’ve seen Alexander and Bekker play in front of the defence with Bekker playing a bit more forward. This is the ideal position for Shipp in my opinion. With Donadel presumably back this weekend in his usual role, I could see a perfect partnership created with Shipp just ahead of him.

Shipp, who has a calm demeanor under pressure, would allow a player like Piatti to focus on creating space with a run on the left, rather than asking for the ball too early in a breakout situation.

Case in point on the weekend: Kennedy Igboananike’s goal.  Many will say that Piatti’s late effort was nicer, and sure, his finish probably was. Personally though, what I liked about Chicago’s goal was not the finish as much as the buildup. What Igboananike does on the play is what I want to see more of from Piatti, and that is to trust his teammates to get him the ball, rather than to look for it early. When the Fire’s counterattack begins on that goal, Igboananike doesn’t think about anything other than getting into space on the left side. When it arrives on his foot, he has all the space in the world to do what he wants the ball, and it resulted with a perfectly curled shot into the far corner.

The way that Montréal defend and create numerous counterattack situations in any given game, Piatti should be registering far more scoring chances. By having a player like Shipp in the middle of the park, the Argentinian should feel confident that he’ll get the ball out wide and in space with regular frequency.