The Montreal Impact started their 2016 MLS season with 2 consecutive wins and then followed that up with 2 consecutive losses. The Impact have also been held off the scorecard in their last two games. The final score in Saturday's game was 1-0 for the Seattle Sounders. Clint Dempsey netted the winner in the 79th minute off of a corner.
The Impact came into this game as the leading team in the east and Seattle still had not captured a single point. According to RDS.ca, 90% of respondents favored the Impact to win. Well, those 90% definitely underestimated the capacities of the Sounders. Seattle has made the playoffs every single season since they entered the MLS in 2009 and they have the most committed fan base in the MLS.
Their average attendance in 2015 was 44 427 which was the most in the league and more than Chelsea, Tottenham or Liverpool. Here are my thumbs up and thumbs down for our Impact's performance this week versus Seattle.
Central defending midfielders: Two weeks ago, our holding midfield duo (Alexander and Mallace) were deservingly featured in my thumbs down. This week, Biello addressed that shortcoming by substituting Callum Mallace with Kyle Bekker. With Marco Donadel still out with a leg injury, Eric Alexander took his place for a third consecutive week.
Alexander had a very defensive role and he accomplished it well. A good holding midfielder will pass under the radar if he does his job properly because we only notice them when they make mistakes. On Saturday, Alexander played mistake free soccer and filled the hole left by Donadel.
On Alexander's right, Kyle Bekker had a much more offensive role. The young Canadian fully benefitted from his first start of the season with a stand-out performance. Bekker had a beautiful shot on target from around 24 yards that forced Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei to make a diving save. He also contributed on quite a few other attacks and was one of the better players on the pitch.
Performance Rating: Eric Alexander 7.5/10 and Kyle Bekker 8/10
Hassoun Camara: Camara had a disappointing performance in Dallas two weeks ago but he made up for his below par performance with a good showing this week in Seattle. The fullback was featured in thumbs down last week because he was not able to shut down the left flank of the Dallas' attack. On Saturday night, Camara had an impressive performance and fulfilled his defensive responsibilities. He was also able to cover for Ontivero's defensive shortcomings.
Furthermore, the Senegalese defender contributed to the Impact's attack on multiple occasions. Camara penetrated deep into Seattle's territory. He sparked the Impact's attack by sending 6 crosses into the box. Camara's performance was definitely an improvement over his match against Dallas. He was a very capable replacement for the injured Ambroise Oyongo and proved to Mauro Biello that he is capable of filling in whenever he is needed.
Performance Rating: Hassoun Camara 7/10
Set piece defending: Defending set pieces has been a problem all year for our Montreal Impact. In week 1, the Whitecaps scored both their goal off set pieces. Two weeks ago, Mauro Diaz scored the opening goal from a beautiful free kick. Finally, Clint Dempsey netted the winner from a corner on Saturday. Out of the 5 goals the Impact have conceded, four (80%) have come from set pieces. The tallest player in the Impact's starting 11 on Saturday was Camara at 6'1" and normally Camara is not even in the starting lineup. He was filling in for the injured Oyongo who is 5'9".
The Impact without Drogba lack a physical presence at both ends of the pitch. In our penalty area, we are constantly out muscled in aerial battles. This has resulted in a few goals so far this season and will result in many more as the season progresses if the Impact don't bring in another physical player to help with their aerial presence. In the offensive zone, we have trouble converting on crosses and corners. However, Drogba (6'2") should be back in action very soon and he is a constant menace on crosses and corners.
Attacking four: The main objective of the Impact's offensive four is very simple: SCORE GOALS. In the past two games, the Impact have been kept scoreless. In the absence of the great Ivorian, the Impact's offense lives and dies with designated player Ignacio Piatti. In the first two games of the season, the Argentine was electrifying and the Impact netted 3 goals in each of their first two games. After demonstrating the full extent of his talent, other teams in the MLS have marked Piatti extremely well.
Since the opposing teams are covering Piatti extensively, the other 3 attackers should have more openings. Sadly, Shipp, Ontivero and Oduro have not been finding those open spaces and most importantly, they have not been finding the back of the net. If the Impact are going get back into a goal scoring groove, Piatti will have to emerge from his coverage and the other forwards will have to create their own opportunities without the Argentinian maestro.
Performance rating: Ignacio Piatti: 5/10 & Harry Shipp: 4.5/10 & Lucas Ontivero: 5.5/10 & Dominic Oduro: 5/10
Two and two is definitely not a horrible start to the 2016 MLS season but I believe the Impact could have done better. The Impact are currently sitting 2nd in the eastern conference with 6 points, two points behind the top place team (Orlando City SC). I believe the Impact will bounce back next week at home versus the Columbus Crew.
On April 9th at the Olympic Stadium, the Impact will have a chance at retribution against Kei Kamara, Federico Higuain and the rest of the Crew after being eliminated by them in the 2nd round of last year's playoffs. The key to victory lies with the Impact being able to unblock offensively in their final game before heading back outdoors to Saputo Stadium.