Hard-hitting analysis: It’s hard to win a soccer match when you don’t score goals, and it’s hard to score goals when you don’t shoot on target.
Montreal Impact had zero shots on target, and they lost to San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 to start the 2017 MLS season.
So the question is: How and why did the Impact come away without a single shot on goal at Avaya Stadium?
You can chalk it up to “it’s just one game,” and Week 1 is not usually pretty. There were only 20 goals this past weekend (five by the Portland Timbers) -- 16 goals fewer compared to Week 1 last year.
Overall, the passing was rushed and disjointed, and the shooting was forced and off. But in Montreal’s case, it was only the passing as Mauro Biello’s side only had four shots.
And the passing was bad — really bad. The Earthquakes only won the possession battle 52%-48%, but they forced Montreal to resort to long balls with a heavy press and focused coverage on the Impact’s star playmaker Ignacio Piatti (more on the latter later).
The Impact had 86 long balls total, per WhoScored, and most of them came from centre backs Laurent Ciman and Hassoun Camara.
Ciman is number 23 and Camara is number 6. MLSSoccer.com’s red arrows are unsuccessful passes, and too many of them were long balls. In the following video, Camara completely misses his target.
Long balls are a lottery, but they are even worse when trying to build out of the back. The Impact did not have a chance to put a shot on target with such inefficient build-up play.
Piatti is Montreal’s engine, and the Earthquakes would not allow him to get comfortable in space. The Impact passing was largely poor, but when they got Piatti the ball, he was usually surrounded by two or threes players — completely unable to make anything happen.
The one time Piatti got the ball between the lines, he immediately sent a long ball into the box when he saw a number of Earthquakes defenders coming his way.
Three of Piatti’s five unsuccessful dribbles came when he attempted to get inside the 18-yard box, but San Jose was having none of it.
The Impact’s only play that could have resulted in a shot on target came in the first half when Hernan Bernardello did very well to win a ball in Earthquakes territory, but was unable to get the ball to Piatti as the two went the other way.
If Piatti had gotten the ball, Impact fans can imagine the Argentine cutting out and placing the ball to David Bingham’s left, but the passing just wasn’t there all night.
Montreal finished with a league low 0.13 xG (expected goals) in Week 1, and that’s the reason they lost.