The Montreal Impact faced a daunting opponent on Saturday; the New York Red Bulls. The Red Bulls were motivated since a win would clinch them a berth in the 2016 MLS playoffs in front of their home crowd. On the other hand, a win for the Montreal Impact would go a long way for both their confidence and playoff hopes.
This week, it was clear that the Impact entered the game with a plan: they would sit back, defend as a unit, play with 10 men behind the ball and wait for their chances on the counter. That strategy was effective in the 1st half, however, it fell apart after the break. In the second half, the Impact strayed from their game plan and had trouble clearing the ball from their own end. New York capitalized by taking the lead in the 60th minute and they would hold on to that slender lead in order to beat our Montreal Impact 1-0. Here are my thumbs up and thumbs down for the Impact's 1-0 loss in New York.
Evan Bush: The Red Bulls were piling on the pressure and the only thing that prevented them from finishing the 1st half with a large lead was the confident play of IMFC's keeper Evan Bush. Bush was clearly in control at the back. He made some critical saves in order to keep the game close in the 1st half. He was also dominant inside his own six yard box. Bush has often been criticized for being indecisive when attempting to punch out clearances. However, on Saturday, the Ohio native decisively cleared the crosses that required his intervention and let his back four deal with the rest. All in all, Evan Bush kept the Impact in the game.
Pertaining to New York's only goal, Bush cannot be blamed as Daniel Royer's header deflected off of Hassoun Camara. The trajectory of the ball was completely altered when it touched the head of our French fullback and Bush did not have a chance of making the save. Performance Rating: 7.5/10
First Half: As I have already said, I was happy to see the Impact enter this week's match with what looked to be a well thought out game plan. That plan was simply to sit back, wait and play the counter. Montreal executed that game plan well for the opening 45 minutes. They prevented the Red Bulls from scoring and Ignacio Piatti had a great chance on the counter attack. Sadly, Piatti's scoring woes continued as he was not able to find the back of the net.
This was the best 1st half I have seen the Bleu-Blanc-Noir play since their match versus Toronto FC on August 27th. However, I was extremely disappointed that we did not keep up that high level of play in the 2nd half. I believe that is what eventually cost us the game. 1st Half Performance Rating: 7.5/10
Defensive Woes: By defensive woes, I mean our inability to clear the ball from our own end. Was I the only who was watching the game and yelling at the TV: boot the ball!, kick it far!, just get it out of our own half! I am aware that the Red Bulls play the high press very well but we still have enough talent to kick the **** ball and clear our lines in order to relieve some pressure and regroup defensively.
Unfortunately, the Impact kept trying the cute pass down the sidelines instead of just giving the ball the boot. Other times, we held onto the ball a bit too long in our own half and NYRB were able to either strip us of possession or cut off our passing options. That inability to clear our lines permitted New York to pile on the pressure and eventually net the go ahead goal in the 60th minute. Defensive Rating: 5.5/10
Didier Drogba: I was playing a game while I was watching the match: it was called finding Drogba. Normally a 6'2" imposing physical player with an... interesting hair cut should be pretty visible. However, Drogba once again proved that he can achieve what others may find impossible, he was able to magically disappear for much of the match. If you watched the game, try to remember an instance where Drogba was an offensive menace. Having trouble? That might be because Drogba was NEVER an offensive threat on Saturday.
Drogba did not look interested in creating anything offensively. He was not able to shed defenders or get into open space. Instead of trying to play the ball towards his teammates, he preferred to attempt the long distance shot. Over 90 minutes, Drogba did not worry the Red Bulls back line or keeper Luis Robles. Drogba's sole contribution was on the defensive end of the ball. Sadly, we did not sign Didier Drogba to a multi million dollar contract to defend corners. Performance Rating: 4.5/10
Even though the Impact fell 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls, we still showed signs of improvement, especially in the 1st half. However, a loss is still a loss and the Montreal Impact now face a must win situation when they face off versus the San Jose Earthquakes at Saputo Stadium on Wednesday. This will be the Impact's penultimate home game of the season and they are in desperate need of a win in order to make the playoffs. If the Impact stick to their game plan like they did in the 1st half of the game vs New York, I believe they will have a good chance of claiming all three desperately needed points against San Jose.