It may be a little difficult watching Montreal Impact at the moment, but it’s hard to fault the coach’s strategy. The team bears the hallmark of new management, and is clearly working to a rigid plan.
Remi Garde has evidently looked at the videos and stats from last season, and determined to prioritise by, quite rightly, fixing how his new team defends.
It means being disciplined when not in possession and dropping to halfway; they are almost saying to the opponent, “OK show us what you can do!”
For much of the first-half last night in St-Petersburg, a stranger to the game of soccer would have been hard-pressed to select which was the MLS team, but then on the stroke of half-time came the one piece of attacking quality that broke the deadlock, and gave away the answer.
Edwards lively throughout his 65 mins on the field, started the move, finding Petrasso on the overlap. The cross was precise and there was Taider, at the far post, to finish off a quite clinical and incisive move.
Petrasso is another who seemed to find his feet in this game, his tenacious run in the 77th minute unsettled Tampa Bay, vulnerable already after just drawing level. Taider carried on the move finding Piatti, who clipped the ball over goalkeeper Mizell’s outstretched leg and into the net.
Earlier in the second-half, the Rowdies had begun to look threatening, winning a penalty on 56 after Edwards fouled Nanchoff. Hristov’s spot-kick however was poor, Bush read him easily, the Montreal ‘keeper appearing almost to be down waiting for the ball before it arrived.
The amount of space in which the speedy Flemmings found himself, on the edge of the Montreal box, in the build-up to the penalty award suggests a lack of concentration, communication, or both, in Montreal’s back division.
Rowdies actually did draw level on 75, when Jochen Graf found himself goal-side of Raitala, now playing centre-back. The Tampa Bay midfielder slipped a deft finish over the advancing Bush and into the goal. Uruguayan Sebastien Guenzatti had been the creator with a well-placed pass inside Diallo.
There were quite a few positives to take from this exercise, a game in which the Impact were led by Samuel Piette, wearing the armband. How Piatti and Taider combined throughout a second-half, which flowed better without the usual rash of substitutions, suggests an understanding is quickly developing.
Petrasso showed evidence of his several years in England, Raheem Edwards was lively, appropriately aggressive, and will add tenacity and structure offensively to the right side, and Diallo once again was smooth. If the Frenchman can appear as assured when the serious stuff begins in March, he will prove to be an excellent addition.
It was particularly pleasing how the Impact were able to raise their game so swiftly after being rocked by Graf’s leveler to regain the lead. Tampa Bay, a capable opponent, one always willing to carry the game to Montreal, were on terms for only two minutes.
Montreal’s best spell of possession came late in the game, as they ran the clock down in a good example of game management which perhaps also hints at improving fitness and conditioning.
They still do not look like a team who will dominate possession, but greater solidity does exist within the unit. At this stage of their development, they remain dependent on Piatti and Taider to produce the magic up front and get the goals, while something more than we’ve seen so far, is needed from Mancosu and Jackson-Hamel.
Maybe it will come with time and games . . . . . .
Montreal’s starting XI was -
(4-1-4-1) Bush – Petrasso (Duvall 81’), Diallo, Cabrera (Kinumbe 46’), Raitala – Piette (capt) (Krolicki 90’) – Edwards (Bahiya 65’), Shome (Salazar 46), Taider, Piatti – Mancosu (Jackson-Hamel 46).
Scorers: Taider (44), Piatti (77)
Rowdies XI (4-2-3-1): GK Akira Fitzgerald (Cody Mizell 46’); D David Najem (Kyle Curinga 63’), Hunter Gorskie, Neill Collins (Tamika Mkandawire 63’), Zac Portillos (Max Lachowecki 46’); M Jack Blake (Ivan Magalhães 63’), Marcel Schäfer (Michael Nanchoff 32’); M Junior Flemmings (Alex Morrell 63’), Joe Cole (Martin Vingaard 46’), Leo Fernandes (Sebastian Guenzatti 46’); F Georgi Hristov (Jochen Graf 63’)
Scorer: Graf (75)