The Impact had their first road win this season, and it happened against the four-time MLS Cup Champions, DC United, during a gloomy evening in Washington DC. The Impact has had a poor start to the season, but it is hard to believe that their record going into this game actually represents the reality of the team. Surely The Impact isn’t the second worst team in the East. After this vital win, here are my 5 takeaways:
1. Being able to close games out. Even though The Impact has been ahead on the scoreboard for quite a few games (**ahem** Seattle and Chicago), they have struggled to close games out, and that has been incredibly costly. Even with the win in Washington DC, there were a few unnecessary plays at the end of the game that could have allotted DC a goal. Perhaps this is due to the changes in the starting line-up, or the newcomers this season, but if The Impact wants to make it to the playoffs, being able to finish games will be crucial. MLS competition is very unpredictable and a lead needs to be guarded at all costs, especially during the last minutes.
2. Oduro should not be Mancosu’s de facto replacement. Oduro is a decent player; He has the speed that kills and is very good at stretching the opposition. Yet, we’ve been here before. Oduro does not have a good first touch and lacks that finisher’s touch. However, having Oduro back as a lone striker brings back good memories. Who could forget that magical Concacaf Champions League Run? Nonetheless, we cannot rely on purely counter attacks and speed to beat our MLS opposition week after week. It is time to give Jackson-Hamel a chance to sink or swim; He deserves it and should be allowed to prove himself as a starter.
3. Fisher was unrecognizable. Sure, one game is not enough to asses a player like Fisher, especially if we note his inconsistency since arriving in Montreal after last year’s draft. However, he has displayed tremendous improvement in his position. Ciman seemed able to lead the back line and Fisher did his part in getting the shutout. At the very least, we know that there is a bit more depth in the position, and players like Cabrera and Lefevre have to fight for their spot on the depth chart every day in practice.
4. Ballou Tabla might be the answer in life after Piatti. Yes, I do not want to think of life after Piatti, just like I hated to think of life after DiVaio, and this conversation might be incredibly premature, BUT this is Piatti’s last year in his contract. Should he choose to leave Montreal, I can totally see Ballou becoming our usual “go to guy” in one-on-one situations, creating space, and finishing (if European clubs don’t snatch him first). This kid has tremendous potential and a bright-looking future, making it a truly delightful experience to watch him play for The Montreal Impact. Canadians can only hope he continues on the rank of Canadian Soccer and gets cap-tied soon.
5. Next Man Up. This will surely become the theme for the next few weeks as The Impact has to battle injuries and figures out how to replace some key players. As stated earlier, players like Jackson-Hamel and Ballou will have to show their worth and have a chance to become vital to the season’s success. In this first road win, it was Fisher, Lovitz, Arregui, who had to step up and deliver. In the coming games, those names will change, but the attitude has to remain the same: Success will be closely related to the players’ ability to take bigger roles than usual, and contribute enough in getting results.
There are a number of reasons to remain optimistic: A lot of the season is still to be played and the game against DC was a step in the right direction.
Highlights from the game: