The Montreal Impact squad should be happy they’ve a chance to address recent form with Wednesday evening’s second-leg tie in the Canadian Championship looming large.
It’s all of a sudden become a tricky fixture. An almost ‘can’t win’ scenario, for if they do they’ll meet the very least of their fans’ expectations, and if they don’t, well, not so sure those consequences need spelling out.
What should have been a run of the mill affair is likely now to be riddled with nerves and tension. There’s possibly even an anxiety to get this one out of the way and look towards Saturday, when at least if they beat Philly, people will sit up and take notice. It would restore some pride. Beating York9 won’t, because it’s expected.
But the Impact would be well-advised to focus on the job on hand. Recent times have betrayed progress made in the earlier part of the season, or should that be the other way around? Any Impact player getting carried away by the admirable points haul over the yellowing first 17 rounds of matches should surely by now have hit the luscious green Stade Saputo turf with an almighty thud. Points do make prizes, but 0/12 recently doesn’t much help!
Montreal fans may need to be patient. One likely tactic for the visitors will be a cautious beginning incorporating blanket defence. They’ll be hoping the longer the game progresses scoreless, the greater the chance already disgruntled home fans will turn on their team, cranking up the pressure.
Daniel Lovitz was in bullish mood after training, Monday when he told TVA Sports, “For me, it’s always better to play fast after a defeat and we have a game on Wednesday, a competition we want to win, it’s a great opportunity, not to bury and forget what happened in the last games, but to move forward positively.”
Bacary saga also weighed in ... ”You have to play to win. We do not have time to think about the first leg, or the change of competition, we just have to win. “
”We must respect them, of course, but we are at home and we must qualify,” he added firmly.
Conversely, York9 have hit probably their best form of the season. And they showed enough spirit to claw back a deficit and lead late on against lack-lustre Impact in the first-leg. Let’s not forget also that the two goals they conceded that night were the result of defensive howlers. With a bit more care and concentration at the back the Ontarians could be taking a lead into tomorrow evening’s second-leg.
Since tying the Impact, The Nine Stripes have won back to back games for the first time this season, albeit at home, and narrowly lost last weekend at runaway Spring season champions, Cavalry, the only goal an unfortunate og by Dan Gogarty in the tenth minute.
As they showed in the first-leg they have players who can trouble Montreal. Chilean Rodrigo Gattas emerged from the bench last time to provide the impetus for the two-goal comeback. He’ll probably not start in the return, but it’s still a dangerous option from the bench.
There’s a decent midfield trio in Porter, Aparicio, the captain and Ryan Telfer on-loan from Toronto FC. Joe Di Chiara adds muscle to the engine-room, but it will be interesting to see if they can be as effective away from the York Lions Stadium. It’s fairly common for an underdog to over-perform at home and be less motivated away. I saw them in a previous round at AS Blainville and thought they were unconvincing, although to be fair, they had very few competitive games under their belt at that stage.
York9 also have Luca Gasparotto, an all-action, calamitous centre-back. He should be watched at set-pieces. Can be trouble at both ends, no better illustrated than during the first-leg, when having key involvement in goals for both sides.
Whichever eleven Remi Garde chooses tomorrow evening, you’d be hard-pressed to bet against Impact progressing to the competition’s semi-finals.
Jimmy Brennan will have other ideas though. Despite playing away from home, he won’t be feeling all is lost with the sides on level terms. The former Canadian international will use all his English Premier League experience, professionalism and powers of motivation, and will certainly believe his team can profit from Montreal’s delicate state.
After all the Bleu/Blanc/Noir, recently, has given him plenty of reasons for optimism.
Footnote: The fitness of Ignacio Piatti is still monitored by the day. Potentially he could make the Impact line-up for Wednesday’s game. He trained, not alone on Monday, but along with the rest of the squad. Always a positive sign. Should he prove his fitness, it will be interesting to see if Remi Garde opts to give the Argentinian the start, or introduce him later in the game from the bench.
Line-ups (projected) -
IMFC - Diop - Brault-Guillard, Diallo, Raitala, Lovitz - Azira, Taider (c), Shome - Browne, Jackson-Hamel, Okwonkwo.
York9 - Ingham - Doner, Gasparotto, Thompson, Abzi - Di Chiara, Murofushi - Porter, Aparicio (c), Telfer - Adjei Karlsson
Match Officials - Not yet announced.