Becoming habitual this, reflecting on yet another Montreal Impact defeat.
A Happy Birthday, it was not!
Twelve games into the season, it’s not unreasonable to expect progress and a new team taking shape. Sadly though, for a multitude of reasons, the Impact in 2018 are to competitive football, what Donald Trump’s tweets are to integrity and truthfulness.
Holiday Monday was a case in point. LA Galaxy, one-time glamour club of MLS, came to town complete with their latest star asset, a certain Swedish #10. Reputations may have spooked the home side, particularly with their constantly changing defence, including at its centre a Finnish left-back and an aging Italian midfielder, returning from injury, with only 6 minutes under his belt in 2018.
But once it became clear that this opponent was not anything like the Galaxy of old, with, or as it happened without, Monsieur Zlatan, you’d have expected even the Impact to kick on and secure a rare victory. Right?
Wrong! Not only were they unable to win, they couldn’t manage to secure so much as a point against the ten, dark blue sashes. Then again drawn games are even more extinct than victories for the Impact these days. Thirty-four matches since the last one!
Piatti, a lone striker up front, well shackled for the most part, predictably went closest for his team early on. But as the game wore on, increasingly noticeable was his reluctance to part with the ball. We’ve seen this before. Similar tendencies last season afflicted Dzemaili. The Swiss failed miserably at times to conceal frustration-fuelled body-language when one team-mate or another failed to read the script, or successfully return a pass.
That Piatti and Dzemaili dovetailed so well is not coincidence. Great players do. They were good for each other, tuned into exactly the same wavelength. The Impact’s support cast, then and now, are not exactly wired the same way.
The Impact defence coped admirably, but concern always surrounded the lack of pace centrally, and so it proved Impact’s undoing in the 75thminute, Ola Kamara giving Donadel and Raitala the slip, before sliding under the otherwise perfect, Bush. It was the fourth successive game in which the Norwegian had scored, equalling for him a personal best in MLS.
The midfield, set up for a dour battle was unable to find either guile or creativity. One or two chances around the box did fall to Krolicki and Silva, but Bingham proved equal to the task in the visitor’s goal. Montreal’s other best work, was restricted to long-range shots, it’s worst to poor deliveries into the box from wide positions. And on the rare occasion a decent cross was produced, there was no-one to attack the football.
The Impact must persevere with what it has, plan furiously for the upcoming transfer window, and hope to salvage something from what has so far been a directionless 2018. A robust and solid base upon which to launch into 2019, is the minimum deliverable come season’s end.
Success in the Canadian Championship and qualification for Champions League 2019, would be the bonus. Remi Garde has until 18 July to prepare his motley crew for that challenge.
Player ratings and comment, as I saw it . . . .
Evan Bush – 7/10 –Another good performance. Couple of good saves first-half, did everything asked of him, and could do little about the game’s only goal.
Michael Petrasso – 5/10 –Much of his game, certainly after the expulsion of Ibrahimovic in which he was instrumental, was played further forward. Produced some erratic crosses, one actually more resembled a clearance.
Jukka Raitala – 6/10 –Performed well, showing strength of character in putting the previous weekend’s howler behind him. Caught out along with partner Donadel for the only goal.
Marco Donadel – 6/10 –A brave performance in central defence by the Italian midfield veteran. Always willing to accept responsibility, and for the most part used the ball well. Might have been an idea for him to swap roles with Piette, once Galaxy went down to 10 men.
Chris Duvall – 5/10 –Playing on his unnatural side, defended well against Alessandrini, however was frustrating to watch him try to link with the play as the Impact advanced. Often lost possession and looked uncomfortable going forward, left-side.
Samuel Piette – 6.5/10 – A typical Piette performance. Very steady and consistent in ball recovery. A rare run into the box produced an opportunity for Piatti early on, which the Argentinian let get away.
Ken Krolicki – 4.5/10 –Ken’s best days are all ahead of him. Very difficult for a young player to come into a struggling side. Seems to want to play the easiest, safest ball every time, even when better, more positive, are not that difficult. Had one decent shot and produced a dangerous cross which wasn’t attacked. His day will come.
Alejandro Silva – 5.5/10 –Cut a frustrated figure upon leaving the field, substituted with 15 mins left. Showed some flashes but coaching staff still have not worked out how best to deploy the Uruguayan. Then again with such unbalanced options available, Garde is probably sacrificing Silva’s strengths to help the team.
Saphir Taider – 6/10 –Tried hard in the midfield to get things going, despite a growing sense of frustration. Probably held the ball too long at times, and in trying to force the game second-half his error count increased. A couple of decent long-range shots.
Raheem Edwards – 6.5/10 –Best outfield player on the day. Showed glimpses of why TFC fans were reluctant to see Raheem move away from BMO Field. Apart from Piatti’s slaloming run on goal first-half, Edwards produced most of the exciting moments for Montreal fans. Great to see a wide player take the ball to an opponent, shimmy, drop the shoulder and get on his way. Not enough of that in today’s game.
Ignacio Piatti – 5/10– The Curse of being named MLS Player of The Week. We’ve seen little of The Maestro since. Created one early chance for himself quite brilliantly, but that was as good as it got for the Argentinian. Often held the ball too long, probably a sign of frustration.
Jeisson Vargas– 5.5/10 - for Silva (75). Managed to get some shots on goal after his introduction, but didn’t trouble Bingham, and never looked likely to make the difference.
Anthony Jackson-Hamel – 5.5/10 – for Chris Duvall (64). Tried hard when he entered the fray to not much avail. Any decent crosses that came into the box were not attacked. Needs to gamble more, anticipating deliveries. Finished his best chance well, but was clearly offside.