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Montréal Impact – A Week In Review: Anger Management Edition

Marco Donadel battles Julio Baptista for possession of the ball in Montréal's 2-1 loss to Orlando.
Marco Donadel battles Julio Baptista for possession of the ball in Montréal's 2-1 loss to Orlando.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

This past Saturday, the Montréal Impact lost to Orlando City by a score of 2-1. With the loss, the Impact’s winless streak reached six games, with their last win coming against the Chicago Fire on April 16.

A day after the defeat, it was revealed that Belgium coach Marc Wilmots had called up defender Laurent Ciman to the national squad for the upcoming European Championships. IMFC’s ace CB will miss the upcoming match versus the LA Galaxy this weekend, and depending on how well Belgium do at the Euros, could miss as many as 5 MLS contests. The Montréal Impact play 2 games versus TFC in the Amway Canadian Championship on June 1st and 8th, meaning Ciman will also miss those games.

With an already depleted backline (defenders Ambroise Oyongo and Wandrille Lefèvre will also miss games due to national team call-ups next week) the next couple of weeks will probably be a rough stretch for the team.

Before we get to worrying about those games, though, let’s get back to last Saturday’s game, which was, for me at least, an exercise in restraint.  Bare with me, then, as I will now proceed to write a completely unbiased, sane analysis of what transpired during the game (cough).

To ref or not to ref that is the question…

My only explanation for how poorly referee Mark Geiger officiated the first half of the game is that either he owes Brek Shea a large sum of money or that they’re related.  Nothing else makes sense.

In the span of about 15 minutes, the Orlando City fullback completely lost his mind, committing fouls that all easily could have been called yellow cards (and maybe one a red even). Here’s how it went down:

  • Shea pulls back Lucas Ontivero’s jersey as he dribbles past him up the wing. A regular foul is given. Could have been worse, but I’ll let the referee off the hook on this one. Still, this should have been a clear indication to Geiger that Shea was a player to keep an eye on. He didn’t.
  • Next up was a foul that absolutely had to be called a yellow card but wasn’t. Lucas Ontivero once again has the ball on the wing, and attempts a few step-overs on the sideline with Shea covering him. Having not fooled the Orlando defender, Ontivero plays the ball back to one of his teammates. Pretty harmless play I thought. For some reason this incensed Shea though, because he then proceeded to shove Ontivero to the ground from behind.  It’s safe to say that that this is far from a normal soccer-related foul. Players get tripped, kicked, elbowed in the head on 50-50 balls in the air and so on. To see a player get shoved from behind, a second or two after he has passed the ball, was to me, a momentary lapse in brain function by Shea. Curiously the referee missed the play, and after conferring with the linesman about what had transpired, they both agreed that they had no idea what just happened. Good one, boys.
  • But we’re not done, not by a long shot. A few minutes later, guess who, Lucas Ontivero beats Shea to the outside, and once again, Shea decides to shove him, this time out of bounds. The result? A throw-in. Bravo Mr. Geiger.
  • And then, the coup de grace. Venegas gets a bit handsy with Shea along the sideline, and the American (Psycho is probably appropriate here) decides to chest bump the Costa Rican to the ground. "Oh my," thinks Geiger. "I guess I better, uh, give him a yellow card."  Right, because that was Shea’s first bookable offense. Yes, that’s sarcasm by the way. Sigh.

My count? 3 yellow cards on 4 fouls (I know, that’s impossible). Referee Mark Geiger’s count? 1 yellow card on 3 fouls (I know, also seemingly impossible).

Bottom line is that with the Impact up 1-0 and in control of the game, an OCSC sending off should have been the exclamation point on what was a quite dominating IMFC first half performance. Instead, Orlando and Brek Shea got away with murder, and scored the equalizer shortly before the break.

The good news… kind of?

The good news was that the Montréal Impact had one of their best overall performances in a while. The bad news was that they lost, so, that kind of cancels out the good news, no?

The answer is, maybe. It really all depends on how the coaches and players reacted after the game. If they saw it simply as a loss and decided to focus on the things they did wrong, then it was most certainly a waste of a trip to Orlando.

On the flip side, I saw a team that seemed to finally get back to where they were to start the season, a team focused less on running and more on passing.

The opening goal was a thing of beauty. The connection between Venegas and Ontivero to create Piatti’s eventual goal was exactly the kind of ball ball movement that I imagine most fans have been crying out for.  IMFC’s passing was overall very impressive, so much so that Orlando’s only recourse was to foul at every turn. You know you’re doing something right when you draw 20 fouls and 5 yellow cards.

Two players I thought who really stood out, especially in the first half were Lucas Ontivero and Johan Venegas. Both were excellent in their link-up play in the attacking half, and each player showed a lot of strength on the ball, either by shielding it or fighting to regain it.

The front four of Venegas, Ontivero, Ignacio Piatti and Dominic Oduro were a force throughout the game, moving the ball with efficiency and creativity. On the defensive side of the ball, both Laurent Ciman and Wandrille Lefèvre marshaled away the few Orlando attacks that came their way in the first half, and though they ended up conceding 2 goals, both played well. Overall the Impact defence made very few mistakes in the game, but Orlando were simply more opportunistic than their opponents.

The bad news…  kind of?

Once again Montréal fell prey to their glaring weakness on defensive coverage in the box. After giving nothing away all first half, IMFC conceded a questionable free kick on the wing, a foul that Orlando converted into the tying goal on a free kick into the box. Considering the timing of the goal (43rd minute), it was a back-breaker. As a result Orlando started the second half with a lot more confidence, and the tide turned chance-wise, subsequently.

In the 66th minute Harrison Shipp replaced Lucas Ontivero, a move that proved to be a bit counterproductive. Shipp didn’t add much to the offence, mostly because he lacked Ontivero’s intuitiveness and creativity. He wasn’t bad, but it turned out to be a substitution that either didn’t need to be made, or at least not that early.

The next two substitutions, first Michael Salazar for Venegas followed by Maxim Tissot for Hassoun Camara, also did nothing to help the team finish off the game strong. Like with the Ontivero/Shipp switch, Salazar coming in for Venegas seemed strange, as the Costa Rican was having easily his best game of the year. On top of that, he had nearly scored just moments before coming off.

Camara came off due to cramping, and unfortunately for Tissot, he was front and center on Cyle Larin’s game-winner. It obviously was not entirely his fault, but a more muscular Camara probably could have fended off the oncoming Larin in the box.

Despite all that, I still think that overall, this was mostly just a hard-luck loss for Montréal. Team chemistry was at an all-time high on the pitch, and if not for some extremely questionable non-calls by the referee, IMFC should have sailed into the second half with at least a 1-goal lead. It didn’t go that way, but there are plenty of positives to take away from the game.