Ignacio Piatti, Dominic Oduro and Didier Drogba carried the Impact on their backs Saturday night. They all had fairly average games overall, yet all three were lethal inside Columbus' 18-yard box.
- Piatti: 2 G
- Oduro: 1 G 1 A
- Drogba: 1 G (PK) 2 A
Drogba's performance and statistics are particularly all over the place. Very impressive points tally, but his pass completion rate was well below the norm and I'm being nice. He did deliver when necessary so we'll let it slide, he's earned that much.
Coming back from a 4-1 deficit on the road is no easy feat. It was a character building night and the Impact holds on to first place in the East, at least until the Philadelphia Union play the LA Galaxy on Wednesday night.
Harry Shipp and Drogba's game management. They both do little things which sometimes go unnoticed, but have big impacts to how games progress. Harrison Shipp has been the target of some criticism lately, but he often demonstrates a deeper understanding of the game and its intricacies. At 1-1 and approaching halftime Shipp went down with what seemed like an injury, knowing he's not the type of player to dive I immediately expected the worst. It might've seemed like faking, but it was obvious after the fact that he wasn't trying to draw a cheap foul, but just trying to give the defense a much needed minute to recompose itself as they were getting ripped apart by the Crews attacking players. Drogba's case was different but equally important. Federico Higuain and Kei Kamara were arguing for what seemed like ages over who would take the PK in the second half. While the ref Armando Villarreal and most of the players watched all this unfold, no one dared cut in and tell them to take the penalty. They managed to kill loads of time while already leading 3-1. Even the ref seemed surprised by Drogba's audacity. These are the little things that need to become routine and rub off on other players. Its essential for players to keep focus on the big picture and maximize these opportunities which impact a game off the ball.
We can bunch everything to do with Montreal's defense in here: The formation, individual contribution and the entire system was just a failure. I honestly have no idea what the defensive four were doing out there for large parts of the game. They seemed to be trying a NFL style zone defense against one of the most dangerous offensive lineups in the MLS. One cannot let Higuain, Kamara, Meram and Finlay play in space. It was complete lunacy, yet its exactly what the Impact did over and over and over again. I have no way of knowing if this was a specific strategy planned beforehand or if the players were just suffering physically and/or mentally.
Ambroise Oyongo and Maxim Tissot suffered similar fates. They got burned up and down the wings all night. They were both caught out of position repeatedly which put extra pressure on Marco Donadel and Patrice Bernier. Columbus had a very specific game plan to attack the wings and Meram and Finlay played it to near perfection. We can expect more of this in the upcoming games until the system and gaps are addressed.
I'm not a doctor nor a gambler, but I would bet that Victor Cabrera is not fully recovered from his concussion a few weeks ago. Wandrille Lefevre needs to come in vs Philadelphia next week. Cabrera had a great rookie season, but MLS now has loads of game tape and everyone knows he's our slowest defender even when fully fit. Kei Kamara played him beautifully, he was shadowing Cabrera in order to avoid Laurent Ciman's coverage.
As for the defensive mids, it was nearly impossible for Donadel and Bernier to impose themselves in this game. Federico Higuain was granted loads of space and options as Donadel and Bernier were too busy covering for the oft absent combo of Tissot and Oyongo. Both defensive mids burnt too much energy covering the wings to offer anything offensively.
This is not the same IMFC defense we saw in 2015, and its not all because of the Donny Toia injury. I can't help but wonder how much of our defensive issues are due to Enzo Concina's departure at the end of 2015. Speaking of departures... anyone miss Zarek Valentin or the depth Eric Miller or Jeb Brovsky could've offered?
Columbus fell apart after notching a 4-1 lead. Most would agree the meltdown originated from the argument over who would take the penalty kick which Higuain ended up scoring to give them what should have been a comfortable lead. The whole situation was awful, lacked class and smelled of selfishness. There is history between the two players, this wasn't just one incident. I won't pick sides, but I will say Columbus has a decision to make, one of them can't be wearing the jersey in the next weeks. These situations have ways of polluting locker rooms and rotting team foundations.
Ex-Impact defender Karl Ouimette suffered a brutal and cowardly attack from behind after both he and Romeo Parkes received red cards in the Red Bulls II vs the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Long, long suspension coming up for Parkes.