The good work from early season when Montreal Impact secured an admirable points-haul, despite a tiring road schedule, has unravelled.
Poor home form, has contributed to the current slump in form. NYCFC, Orlando, Minnesota and Toronto have all come to 4750 rue Sherbrooke, and left with the points. That equals the number of home defeats suffered in 2018, which was not considered a vintage year by any means.
Actually 4 is the lowest number of home defeats for IMFC in any MLS season, but it’s not unusual. It’s happened four times in seven campaigns. 2019 has seven home matches left, something that should be a source of comfort and confidence, but you fear it won’t be restricted to only four home defeats.
From a good position a few weeks ago, the Impact needs to knuckle down once more. The breathing space they bought for themselves early season has disappeared. The hard work needs to begin all over again. In fact it will be harder. There’s less time to get things right and less margin for error. It is the business end of the season after all.
Do they have the stomach for it? Can they raise their game again, as they did, albeit inconsistently, after the blow of losing Piatti for several weeks? How long will Samuel Piette be missing? The Repentigny native, unlike Piatti, is never going to be your match-winner, but he adds heart and brings much-needed inspiration to the team.
I’m not sure what the answers to those questions are, however what I do know is a fresh face, or three, can work wonders. But, like my preponderance over the squad’s character or lack thereof, I’m sceptical of what the open transfer window will bring.
There doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of money available. The $1.5m in salary tied up in misfits, Novillo and Camacho would help, but that’s not about to happen any time soon.
You would hope that the recruitment folks had already been working hard to secure signatures, at least one or two, to freshen up the squad this season, rather than targeting 2020 as the time to bring in new blood.
Even Sir Alex did this throughout his glory years at United, and you don’t see Pep letting the grass grow under his feet across Manchester’s divided city these days, despite incessant success.
Failing to reach the play-offs, with seven clubs from the Conference advancing, would be disastrous. But apart from that, the on-field product has been uninspiring this season, especially at home. Ten goals in as many Stade Saputo games do not tell all the story, but they point several fingers in a similar direction, targeting one of the main problems.
Arguably the most entertaining games we’ve seen at Stade Saputo this season were against Portland, Minnesota and Toronto (the last one, thanks in no small part to the enthusiasm of the supporter groups). Two of those were lost, and the other was a narrow victory over a significantly weakened Portland side (the Minnesota team that won here, left-out a host of regular starters too).
I’ve a ticket spare for each home game this season. Trying to give it away has been much, much harder than it should be. And that’s after offering it free of charge to an email list of 50+ in a soccer group, each of whom play two or three times per week. I usually end up handing it to a random person outside the stadium on a match day. “Here, it’s your lucky day, knock yourself out, enjoy the game!”
There’s something wrong with that!
Remi Garde must work with the material he’s given. The injury to Piatti doesn’t help of course, but that’s a risk the club takes when so dependent on one player. Impact has coped admirably well without him at times this season, but not in the goalscoring department. Chances are he would have formed an effective partnership with Urruti, but what the side is left with now, is a forward good at pressing, spearheading a counter-attacking team.
Urruti is a fine player in his own right, but neither a goalscorer, nor a fit for how Montreal has been forced to adapt with his countryman missing.
Taider has been missed in midfield, because he’s been forced up front, Shome has flickered in midfield, had his moments, but just doesn’t yet look ready, while Choiniere’s time will come, but it certainly hasn’t arrived quite yet.
There’s frustration all round, the fans certainly. Even though after losing at home to your greatest rival is probably not the best time for litmus testing, it’s easy to find sympathy with their disappointment, again, as play-off soccer hangs perilously in the balance.
Remi Garde, the best coach the organization has had, must be feeling annoyance and perhaps a sense of letdown. If so, he’s too professional to speak publicly about it, but you hope he’s strong enough to be an aggressive ‘behind closed doors’ influencer when it comes to recruitment and what the team needs right now.
Garde might be difficult to retain for a third year should he become discouraged at what he might perceive as lack of ambition on the club’s part. And the former Lyon coach will have suitors in Europe (if not elsewhere in MLS), of that you can be sure.
Which all adds up to some much needed activity in the market. It’s not hard to work out, it may be slightly more of a challenge to target the right players and get the deals done, but those in the club’s hierarchy must ask themselves here and now, can the organization afford not to invest?
If the answer to that question is, “Yes!” then disgruntled fans need an explanation detailing the bigger-picture. Even at that, their patience has worn thin, and should not be taken for granted.
If Montreal’s MLS existence can be described using the parlance of that common, old, English football suffix, City; it’s more like a mid-table Stoke or Norwich than a Manchester, with a flickering of Leicester flashing the pan in 2015, when reaching the Eastern Conference Final teased of further glory.
How it has regressed since ....