The Montreal Impact had a busy week, hosting the Revs on Saturday May 5th, followed by a midweek away fixture in Chicago against the Fire and finally coming back home to play the Philadelphia Union on Saturday May 12th. It was an opportunity for the Impact to turn their season around, with two of the three games coming against opponents in the Eastern Conference who are struggling just as much as them.
To the surprise of a few, the Bleu Blanc Noir started this stretch by dominating arguably the stronger of the three teams. In fact, they were up 4-0 against the Revs by the 68th minute, only to let in a couple of late goals to finish the match 4-2. The defense played well enough, but the offensive display during the match truly stole the show. A magnificent goal and hat-trick of assists for our Argentine maestro again showed us why he is one of the best players in the MLS, and a brace for home boy Anthony Jackson-Hamel led some of us to believe that he’s finally ready to become Montreal’s true #9.
But alas, the Impact once again did what the Impact does best. They planted the seeds of hope one game, only to pluck it right back out of our hearts the next. The team followed the superb game against the Revs with a completely lacklustre performance in Chicago, against the team who’s had the worst home form (and one of the worst attendance) in the league. And to cap off an unbelievably boring match, an oh-so-familiar 89th minute goal concession. 0 points for the Impact, and Chicago moves ahead.
“It’s fine though, we’re playing the Union at home next”, we all thought after the Chicago game. The Union, who had not won an away game since May 13th 2017. The Union, who had not even scored a single goal in four away matches this season. For the first time this year, the Impact were going into a match as clear favorites. Everything pointed to an Impact win. What a time it was to be alive. But, as expressed by fellow contributor Paul Vance, this can sometimes be the worst position to be in, especially for fans.
Just as Philly has the worst offence of the league, Montreal has the worst defence. And in a match between the two, the worst defence prevailed… at being the worst. A devastating defeat, and a terrible showing saw the home fans whistling their team. It is unfortunate, but hopefully the team steps up and finds a way to turn their season around. Too much hope is being put in the summer transfer window, but with the recruitment team in the Saputo offices, that may just lead to more disappointment.
Anyhow, here are this week’s Three Virtuosos:
Virtuoso #1: Ignacio Piatti
Piatti had an absolute masterclass against the New England Revolution. As mentioned above, he scored a great goal and had a hat-trick of assists. Of the Impact’s 14 goals, the Argentine has scored 5 and assisted 5. Without him, there is almost no offensive potential in the team. However, this burden has had a toll on the player, and in the last two games we saw him often taking one touch too many and losing the ball trying to create something by himself.
Virtuoso #2: Samuel Piette
I’ve decided to put Piette on this list for a couple of reasons.
1. I believe he had some very good games recently. He has been one of the Impact’s most consistent players, and one of the players who has progressed the most this season. Most notably, his passing and distribution has become much better, and he’s learned to go for the safe option and holding possession instead of the anxious long balls we saw from him earlier in the season.
2. I don’t agree with any of the comments by fans or pundits, especially on Twitter, who say Piette is not starter quality in the MLS. First of all, he’s easily in the top 5 DMs in purely defensive aspects. Second, he’s only 23 years old and still has so much room and time to improve. At the pace he’s been improving this season, saying he shouldn’t be a starter is ridiculous. He needs and deserves the game time.
Virtuoso #3: Evan Bush
Bush got 19 saves in three games. That’s more saves than Brad Guzan, Atlanta’s goalkeeper, has made in all 10 games he’s played. The American shot stopper has faced by far the most shots of any keeper in the MLS this season, yet has been able to keep a 69.8% save percentage, 7th highest of the 18 goaltenders who have played a minimum of 8 matches. The fact that he’s let in a staggering 26 goals is only more proof of the Impact’s poor defence.
Best: Piatti’s goal against New England, a just reward for the great work he had done setting up the first three.
Worst: Jukka Raitala’s unbelievable blunder to gift the Union their second goal. It’s unfortunate, as the Finn had been one of the top performers recently, but mistakes like this are unacceptable.
Before the Revs game, a press conference comment from Garde caused a pretty big debate. He said that players didn’t have a “culture de l’entrainement” (training culture) and called out two in particular: Anthony Jackson-Hamel and Raheem Edwards. Some did not appreciate the comment, seeing it as insulting and demotivating for the players. Others believed it was a good thing, and that the Canadian pair needed a kick in the butt to motivate them.
Everyone was surprised, then, to see both of them included in the starting XI against New England, and even more so when they both got on the score sheet. Unfortunately, they didn’t impress as much in the other two games of the week, in which they were also on the starting lineup. Still, the coach’s comments seem to have gotten the right effect on his players.
All stats courtesy of SofaScore and MLS official website.
Who do you think were the top performers? Which plays stood out the most? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, Allez Montréal!