Points on the road aren't easy to come by in the MLS, the Impact have 2 wins and 2 losses after three road games and one at home to start the season. Six points versus four very strong opponents isn't a bad way to start the season. We've seen some strong play from the Bleu-Blanc-Noir as well as some room for improvement at places.
Montreal started the match against Seattle playing the same passive, no-press defensive formation we saw against Dallas. It seems Biello pulled some strings and changed that 25-30 minutes into the game after the Impact were constantly caught flat footed and reacting too late to the Sounders pressure ; A welcome change from my point of view.
The club is definitely a strong counter attack team, but we just don't have the right players and system to lay back and absorb the constant pressure from the MLS teams we've tested so far this season. The Impact's strong finish to 2015 was largely due to the higher pressure 4-1-5 defensive formation they adopted late in the season. They've seemed to stray away from that system at the start of 2016, yet I'm sure we'll come back to it again soon after a few disappointing results. The key to beating offensive teams like Dallas FC and Seattle Sounders is to keep the ball away from their offensive threats, not letting them dictate play and dominate possession
Too Flashy, No Substance
Once again we saw some offensive flashes and combinations from Lucas Ontivero, Ignacio Piatti, and Harry Shipp. Their constant movement and position swapping was impressive to watch, each of them took turns playing in the center. This will only improve as the season progresses, and I for one can't wait to see this team operate full tilt once they learn each other's movements and with Didier Drogba in there.
Dominic Oduro was Dominic Oduro. Great speed which created a few chances, but bad first touches which quickly extinguished the opportunities. This is quickly becoming a déjà-vu, seems like any time he solidifies his starter role and gets comfortable in there, he digresses. Always seems better when he's coming in off the bench or fighting for his spot. Since we're still a few matches away from Drogba's return, I'm about ready to see Anthony Jackson-Hamel get a chance to start a match. Otherwise I'm also curious to see what a front line of Piatti / Venegas / Ontivero can give in a 4-3-3 formation. Either of them would be able to play in a rotational false 9 role.
Another offensive observation I need to mention was my surprise at Montreal's audacity in the attacking third. We don't often see a team show up at CenturyLink field and repeatedly attack in a 4-2-4. Not sure if this was the players showing a lot of confidence or if it comes down to Biello's system, but it was quite impressive to watch and almost disrespectful of Seattle's back line and counter attack. Worked well as it helped neutralize and limit the Sounders to three attempts on target.
Eric at home
Eric Alexander is settling in quite nicely at midfield for Montreal, he's starting to look more and more like the Alexander we saw with the "New Jersey" Red Bulls. This may very well be a dominant midfield once Marco Donadelcomes back from his injury. Kyle Bekker made the most of his opportunity replacing Calum Mallace, he looked good on both sides of the ball. He's putting in the defensive effort to go with his more natural offensive flair.
We've seen better games from Evan Bush, this was a sub-par performance from him. I'd like to see more composure from him in the box. Picking up the back pass with his hands was a lapse in concentration, but he took it one step further when he immediately handed it over to Ivanshitz before his defense could get back in position. One just can't do that at this level, there's gotta be more concentration and better game management. His clearances left much to be desired and the goal off the corner kick would have been avoided on a better night.
Another solid game from Laurent Ciman, Victor Cabrera and Donny Toia. Toia seems more comfortable back on the left side. Hassoun Camara's game started pretty rough, but he seemed to settle down and get into a groove as the game progressed. Seems to be fighting for a starting role and trying make a difference as opposed to playing it safe while Ambroise Oyongo nurses his injury.
Biello's substitutions were well timed and thought out, each player injected some positive play. Patrice Bernier looked good out there considering they were his first 20 minutes of the season. His patience, control and ball distribution will be welcomed. Johan Venegas showed lots of confidence coming back from International break with a goal for Costa Rica against Jamaica last week. Anthony Jackson-Hamel's touches and movement were an upgrade at forward.
The Impact come back home to the Big O and face the Columbus Crew SC which ended IMFC's playoff run in 2015. Much like the Seattle Sounders, Columbus have had a slow start to 2016 (0W-2L-2T). This will be another good test for Montreal and a shot at redemption.