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Montréal Impact – A Week In Review: Chemistry Class Edition

Through four games, the Montréal Impact currently sit 2nd in the Eastern Conference standings with 6 points. Considering their injuries, new faces, and rough early schedule, most people (including myself) consider this a good start. Knock on wood...

Ontivero attempts to elude defenders in IMFC's 1-0 loss to Seattle last Saturday.
Ontivero attempts to elude defenders in IMFC's 1-0 loss to Seattle last Saturday.
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Montréal Impact succumbed to defeat to the Seattle Sounders last Saturday by a score of 1-0. Like with their loss to Dallas, the offensive cohesion was lacking. The team didn’t play particularly badly, and like in the previous loss, could easily have come away with a result. A loss is a loss though, and they now head into their game against Columbus with a 2-2 record.

You want me to play where?

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that Hassoun Camara cost IMFC the game by playing at RB. Nor do I think the same of Eric Alexander playing in front of the defence (Donadel’s spot) instead of a bit further up the pitch (where Bekker played). Lastly, I absolutely don’t think Ignacio Piatti who played his first official game of the year at LW or Harry Shipp at CAM lost them the game. Thing is though, when you throw all those changes together, yeah, things might not smoothly.

Lucas Ontivero probably had his worst game in an IMFC uniform, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. I think anyone who was watching would agree that he clearly gave it his all, and unlike previous matches, managed to play a large portion of the match.

Unfortunately, his decision-making was mostly erratic at best, and a bit of that can be attributed to not playing alongside an in-form fullback. In the first two games, IMFC had really good spacing on the pitch, in that the team moved fluidly together, often giving the ball carrier multiple passing options.

In the first 2 games, Ontivero almost never made an error with the ball, because his RB at the time, Toia, was constantly giving him an option in attack. Just by Toia being there, the defence had to stay a bit more honest, instead of just double-teaming the Argentinian. When given time and space, Ontivero looks like an incredible talent. Against Seattle he looked fairly pedestrian, and a lot of that stems from the fact that both his space and options were reduced.

On top of that, it has become clear through 4 games that he’s not very comfortable playing in crosses or working from wide positions. With Camara unable or (unwilling perhaps) to make more runs up the wing, this greatly weakened IMFC’s ability to create any kind of offense from the right side.

In the middle of the pitch, I thought Bekker did a pretty good job overall. He looked calm on the ball, and made purposeful passes throughout the contest. Alexander, who had been playing in Bekker’s spot the first two matches, did well enough but looked less decisive than what we’ve seen from him to start the year.

Similarly to Camara, it’s not that Alexander is a bad player. It’s just that playing that role in front of the back 4 is not really his best position. Donadel’s greatest strength is perhaps his ability to recover the ball and make quick outlets up the pitch to spring an attack. Alexander is a player who seems at his best when he’s the one receiving that outlet pass instead of the one making it. Also, as much as we laugh at Donadel and his never-ending yellow card accumulation, he gets after it in the tackle better than anyone outside of Ciman, Cabrera and Toia.  With Alexander and Bekker playing CDM against Seattle, there wasn’t exactly a lot of tackling prowess there.

As for Piatti and Shipp, they figured things out as the game went along, but early on it was a bit of a nightmare. There was one instance where Piatti was caught ball-watching in the middle of the pitch and let a Sounders player dribble in all alone to take a shot just outside of the box. The announcer of course blamed it on someone else (Toia) but Piatti was clearly to blame. Maybe he’s so used to playing in the middle that he simply forgot to track back on the right.

Whichever way you cut it, having players play outside of their comfort zone (or what they’ve recently been practicing) usually ends with less than satisfying results. The good news is that the experimentation is happening now rather than later.

2 losses = #NBD

From where I’m sitting, the team losing the last two games is maybe a blessing in disguise. It’s possible that without these losses, the team would not have understood (and I hope they do) the deficiencies they have.

So with that said, I could argue that the wrong two players got injured (Donadel and Oyongo) because they lost 2 games without them, but then I could also argue that they were the right two players, because it proved without a doubt that RB and CDM are the team’s biggest weaknesses.

Yeah but…

I know, I know, Montréal gave up another goal on a set piece. My feeling on the subject is this: IMFC are too soft in crowded play situations.  There’s a reason why the team looks much better on set pieces with Drogba in the lineup (Drog-who? Oh yeah, him).

The Ivorian is probably the most physical player on the team, and I’d argue the most aggressive defender on aerials in the box. It’s gotten him in trouble of course (see semifinals loss versus Columbus) but overall he was a major plus player in those situations last year.

Flamini say what?

Speaking of aggressive players on the pitch, Mathieu Flamini recently was rumored to be interested in joining the MLS this summer. Mark me down in the column of those eagerly awaiting his arrival (to Montréal that is…). For those who think he’s over the hill, I’ve got news for you: he’s probably looked better this season than he has in the past 2-3 years.

Who is Flamini you say? He’s a CDM (yeah we need one of those) who currently plays for Arsenal, a somewhat well known team in London you may have heard of. He’s started nine games this year in the BPL, five of which the team registered a clean sheet.  He’s also French (we love that) played in Italy with AC Milan for five years (we also like that) and can even sub in as a RB (say what?)!

To top it all off, he seems like a really smart dude. I was recently informed that the Frenchman has been working on some pretty cool technology known as Levulinic Acid.  Apparently it has the molecular makeup to replace petrol, and Flamini just recently patented it in November of last year. The potential worth of this technology? Somewhere around 20 billion pounds. Don’t believe me? You can read more about it here:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/shortcuts/2015/nov/16/mathieu-flamini-arsenal-chemical-company-saviour

That's a wrap on Chemistry 101 and beyond. Class dismissed.