Everything was set for a perfect afternoon at Stade Saputo on Saturday. Beautiful weather, the Liverpool v Tottenham, Champions League Final projected on a giant screen before the on-field action, an almost full stadium and a good win against Salt Lake City a few days before, in the bank.
Unfortunately, the Montreal Impact never ‘showed up’ against Orlando City SC.
Remi Garde surprised many fans with his starting lineup. Bacary Sagna was preferred to Zachary Brault-Guillard, even if the 36 year-old French right-back had already played on Wednesday and his replacement will be leaving the club the next day for international duty.
Victor Cabrera was back into the lineup taking the place of Jukka Raitala in central defence despite not playing for more than a month with the first team, and Michael Azira was selected as a midfielder next to Samuel Piette and Saphir Taider even though the youngster Shamit Shome had performed well in that position during the last few games.
After a scrappy first twenty minutes, Orlando City was able to get the first shot on target courtesy of Canadian international Tesho Akindele. Following a quick one-two with Portuguese star Nani, Akindele fired a well-placed shot that was wonderfully saved by Evan Bush.
On the following corner, Zakaria Diallo thought he could get away with an unforgiving handball in the box but referee Chris Penso wasn’t fooled and awarded Orlando a penalty, converted by Nani in the 27th minute.
Due to lack of midfield creativity, the Impact players were not able to develop their game. Taider was once again a shadow of himself and Azira barely gave one dangerous pass throughout the first half.
On the other hand, Samuel Piette was working his best to save the team but of course no-one can do it all alone.
Ten minutes after scoring the first goal, Orlando kept on pressurizing Impact. Cristian Higuita was able to steal the ball away from Omar Browne and quickly pass to Chris Mueller. The sixth overall pick of the MLS Superdraft 2018 served Akindele on a silver platter for the second goal of the evening.
Things went from bad to worse when Bacary Sagna was injured, replaced by Zachary Brault-Guillard at the 36th minute.
The substitution did not help the home side at all, and a great play by Joao Moutinho, Mueller and Nani on the left flank resulted in the third goal for the visiting team. Former Toronto FC player Will Johnson became the second Canadian to score on the night, putting the ball in the back of the net for a three-goal cushion.
At half-time, the ‘bleu-blanc-noir’ players left the pitch immersed in boos.
In the second half, Montreal’s game improved a little, but not enough to score a goal, the third time in six home games they’ve failed to register.
The Algerian international Saphir Taider was denied by Orlando’s goalkeeper, Rowe, in the 84th minute and ultimately Montreal has dropped yet more points at home.
At the post-match press conference, Remi Garde apologized to fans for the poor performance of his players on the night and vowed that things will get better in the near future.
IMFC: Bush – Sagna (Brault-Guillard,36), Cabrera, Diallo, Lovitz - Azira, Piette, Taider - Urruti, Browne (Shome, 77), Jackson-Hamel.
Orlando City: Rowe - Ruan, Sané, Jansson, J.Moutinho – Johnson, Mendez, Higuita (Smith, 83) - Nani (Kljestan, 76), Akindele, Mueller (Rosell, 86).
Referee: Chris Penso
Assistant Referees: Brian Poeschel , Philippe Briere
4th Official: Marcos de Oliveira
VAR: Geoff Gamble
Much thanks, appreciation and acknowledgement to Hady Raphael (@MLSenFolie) of CultureSoccer.com for his significant contribution to this report.