It seems just a moment ago we were all looking forward to a long-awaited first day of the MLS season. Now amazingly, we’re a third the way through, providing a good time to retro-look how things have gone since the beginning of March.
If forced to use one word, it would have to be ‘inconsistent’. Highs and lows, good and bad, but no matter how you slice or dice that, it’s an improvement on the corresponding period last season. Especially if you consider only three games have been at home, with eight on the road, where most MLS teams possess the inconsistency trait in abundance.
But check around the fans, take a look at twitter activity, Facebook, and the various forums, and you’d think it was mostly doom and gloom. There’s a little anger, much despondency and some will speak of boredom, but optimism is expressed too, as the league heads towards the summer months.
Anger and optimism are probably each linked to the absence of one huge personality and the club’s best player, Ignacio Piatti. Anger, in that IMFC can’t seem to find a way to play without him, except ultra-defensively, and optimism in that the maestro’s return would see the Bleu/Blanc/Noir already with 17 points won, kick-on and comfortably qualify for post-season football.
Despondency manifests itself in the team’s turbulent form: W L W L D D W L W W L. Each time it looks like the side has turned another corner, a set-back occurs. Each time a set-back is experienced, the team bounces back, as though there’s nothing wrong, and the last poor result was merely a blip.
And then there’s the boredom, which for many, can be glossed over if the team at least is winning. But when they’re not, then the old grumblings begin again, as we saw from the reaction of fans this most recent Saturday.
The truth of the matter is that IMFC without Piatti is like Christmas without Santa Claus, champagne without the bubbles, or daylight without sunshine. That’s not to say that there aren’t other good players in the squad, there are, but certainly not enough attacking talent to compensate the Argentine’s absence. Until this glaringly obvious problem is addressed, IMFC teams will continue to lack potency. In eight games, so far, without Piatti, Impact has managed only 6 goals, three of them in a late spell at New England when if Cropper, Revs’ goalkeeper, hadn’t dropped an almighty clanger, the game was headed for another dour, 0-0 draw.
Most worryingly, the Piatti injury appears to be day to day, or worse, week to week. It’s clearly more serious than at first thought, although noises emerged at the weekend suggesting this is no longer the issue preventing his return. Perhaps that’s a reason to rejoice, but really meaningful information has not yet emerged, so we must wait and see.
How Remi Garde must wish he had another goalscorer or creative midfielder in the squad. He has neither at his disposal, yet when you look at the standings, the French coach has his team punching above its weight. His deep understanding of the game, its systems and tactics and the knowledge he didn’t always possess of his players have enabled this. Garde would be the first to admit that it’s pragmatic football in the extreme, and flamboyancy or unpredictability will return only at the same time as his injured top asset.
For those suffering despondency, it’s understandable. One week fans are lauding one player or another, a good performance, or a heroic display, but never far away is a Sporting KC, a Philadelphia Union or, as we saw on Saturday when expectancy was high, a poor performance against NYCFC.
The one really good game Impact played in 2019, was at Orlando, Piatti’s last. Since then, it’s been a difficult watch, maybe with the exception of the arduous trip to New England, but the Revs were pitiful that evening.
New signings have proven a mixed bag. We can include Diallo in that, and he’s been the positive along with Zachary Brault-Guillard, who is potential and will play only fleetingly.
Maxi Urruti is an asset despite many pointing out he’s a striker who can’t score goals. Olivier Giroud was the same for France at the last World Cup, played every game, didn’t register a goal, yet he ended up with gold. It’s hard for Urruti to score, if the ball is so infrequently in the opposition box! But with the doubters, you have to agree, he’s not an out and out striker, and will never be prolific.
Orji Okwonkwo has displayed spirit and drive, but you wonder if playing wide really is his best position. Perhaps it is, and he too is suffering from the imbalance and influence the team lacks without ‘you know who’. A more speculative signing, Harry Novillo, looks like a one-time prospect gone wrong. Yes, he does strike a ball beautifully, as we seen against Columbus, but you wonder how seriously he’s taken his football since leaving Lyon in 2013.
On Omar Browne, we must wait and see, .... and hope. A promising debut needs to be followed by more consistent displays of talent, before the green flag can be raised on the Panamanian.
The Third-Term Report must conclude that Montreal has done well, all things considered. Despite missing Piatti for eight matches, the same number of games they’ve had to play on the road, they sit third in the East, although could be overhauled by Toronto with games in hand. But that’s a position most fans would have settled for before a ball was kicked, with Piatti on board, never mind without.
The squad however does need strengthening in key creative areas, and with a resurgent Toronto, a recovering Atlanta, and an improving NYCFC, it would appear post-season football, even if remaining a probability, will be acquired by finishing closer to seventh spot in the East, than top.
How would you rate Impact’s season so far?
This poll is closed
Average - what I would have expected.
Too boring to bother