Philadelphia Union . . . 5 Montreal Impact . . . . . . 0
The famous old Celtic fan’s response to a colleague who consoled, “It was only a friendly,” after inquiring of his team’s pre-season defeat to Arsenal at Highbury a few years ago springs to mind. “CELTIC DINNAE’ (don’t) PLAY FRIENDLIES!!”
Well, thankfully after last evening, Montreal Impact do!
Had this been a full-strength Impact then the evening’s events in Florida would quite rightly be filed under the section “Catastrophy”.
As it was only one player (Jukka Raitala) begun the game from the pretty much, full-strength side that took to the field for the previous weekend outing against Tampa Bay Rowdies. Coach Remi Garde opted to give the youthful second-string an opportunity to impress. So, it wasn’t so much a nightmare; really more of a bad dream. It did however underline the fragility that surrounds the issue of squad depth as the serious stuff quickly approaches.
“It was a modified line-up, because there are quite a large number of preseason games during our training camp,” said Impact head coach Rémi Garde. “The amount of work we did to be ready for our first game is the reason I fielded this young team tonight. Nonetheless, it was a very educative game I could learn from. What I have determined is that we were destabilized due to individual errors.”
Fair comment from the coach. Montreal wouldn’t have deserved to reach the interval scoreless, but that may have happened but for two costly schoolboy errors, a timely reminder that when you slip-up against this level of opposition, you get swiftly punished.
The first was bizarre. Thomas Meilleur-Giguere lost concentration, and the ball, inside the box attempting to control a short pass from Pantemis. CJ Sapong smelled blood, pounced quickly and the young Impact defender hacked the striker down. Sapong, got up, brushed himself down and sent Pantemis the wrong way from the inevitable spot-kick. Not the present the young Montreal ‘keeper would have liked on his 21st birthday.
The second on 41 mins, was not a good moment for Chris Duvall, who had his pocket picked by Matt Real as he attempted to shepherd the ball into touch. Real got to the bye-line and pulled the ball back for new acquisition David Accam to first-time his introduction goal wide of Pantemis. 2-0, Union.
Diop replaced the unfortunate Pantemis at the break, but it took only four second-half minutes before he was picking the ball from the net, CJ Sapong scoring the best goal of the night, firing in high after being sent through by a delicious Marcus Epps flick. Sapong’s glance across to the assistant referee as the ball flew in underlined the suspicion of offside.
It took 64 mins for Impact to muster its first shot on target. Krolicki showing some decent touches as the game wore on, combined well with Lovitz and shot from 20 yards, troubling McCarthy in the Phillie goal, who extended an arm to palm the ball to safety.
Further goals followed in the 71st minute for the wonderfully named defender, Trusty, and six minutes later for former Arsenal academy product Jay Simpson, who had been on the field for less than a minute, Diop’s right foot deflecting the ball high, but under the bar.
In truth, the margin could have been worse. However, a balanced view would represent that Impact would never start a competitive game with so much youth in the line-up at one time, so last night did not provide many realistic pointers for the season ahead.
If Garde’s intent was to highlight a lack of depth in the squad, the unfolding events might well influence minds. It’s abundantly clear from the four, pre-season friendlies to date, that Impact remains a few players short.
Either way, he’ll want to leave Florida on a high, and that opportunity presents itself this coming weekend when Impact takes on New York City FC on Saturday (5pm at Al Lang Stadium), when fans can expect to see the “real” Montreal Impact, stand up!
Then it’s back to Canada and off to Vancouver . . . . .
PHI- John McCarthy; Fabinho (Matt Real 35’), Auston Trusty, Jack Elliott (Mark McKenzie 83’), Keegan Rosenberry (Raymon Gaddis 61’); Alejandro Bedoya, Anthony Fontana (Warren Creavalle 76’), Haris Medunjanin (Derrick Jones 61’); David Accam (Fabian Herbers 76’), CJ Sapong (Jay Simpson 76’), Fafa Picault (Marcus Epps 46’).
MTL- James Pantemis (Clément Diop 46’); Daniel Lovitz, Jukka Raitala, Thomas Meilleur-Giguère (Víctor Cabrera 58’), Chris Duvall; Clément Bahiya* (Samuel Piette 58’), David Choinière (Raheem Edwards 58’), Marco Donadel (Shamit Shome 45’), Ken Krolicki^ (Mathieu Choinière 71’), Michael Salazar (Nacho Piatti 58’); Anthony Jackson-Hamel (Matteo Mancosu 52’).
PHI – CJ Sapong (PEN) 12’
PHI – David Accam (Matt Real) 42’
PHI – CJ Sapong 49’
PHI – Auston Trusty 53’
PHI – Jay Simpson 76’
MTL – Marco Donadel 45’
PHI – David Accam 45’