The best parts of last night’s game from an Impact perspective featured 36-year-old Bacary Sagna.
Yes, the former Arsenal and Manchester City, French international, the oldest member of the squad. It was his aggression and ‘want it more’ attitude that secured the equaliser, getting in there, higher and stronger than the taller Calvo, to power past Kronholm.
His next telling contribution was after the game in his TVA Sports pitch-side interview, clearly angered and agitated by his team-mates lack of diligence and character in defending set-plays.
“We need more aggression. Honestly, it’s not normal to take so many goals on set pieces. It’s a lack of rigor and concentration. If we want to qualify for the playoffs, we must be more mean and kill the matches.”
And therein lies the main problem of the moment, not the only problem, but certainly the most glaring.
Impact has scored a record number of goals on the road this season (22), but also threatens to concede its greatest-ever tally when playing away. That unwanted record stands at 36 (2018), and with two road games to come, at Toronto and Zlatan’s Galaxy, it looks certain to be beaten.
Road form has been horrible since the glut of away games at the beginning of the season, ended. Of the last six road games, all lost, no fewer than four have come against teams with worse records than Montreal. Far too many goals have been conceded from set-plays. The rigour and discipline is absent. Let’s be blunt!
Zakaria Diallo is a shadow of the player which began the season, his demeanour of one who cares less than he should. He should well remember how IMFC stuck by him after a season-long injury sustained even before he’d even kicked a ball in anger.
Others just simply come up short. The mentality is not what it should be. Travel sickness is back with a vengeance. It can only be hoped, not expected, that the new signings and six homes games from the eight that remain, can propel the side into the play-offs.
But who would dare be optimistic? The Impact has the worst form, along with Houston Dynamo, heading into this final, vital phase of the regular season. Each has only 3 points from their last six games.
Last night again, the ninth time this season, they conceded within the first 15 minutes of a game. Irrespective of some players’ post-match comments last night around showing ‘character’ to get back level after going two behind, it’s an obvious sign that special and particular ingredient is actually severely lacking.
The defending at the corner from which Dax McCarty scored in the ninth minute was comedic. Corrales was caught ball-watching when he should have been Schweinsteiger-watching. The German veteran must have been astounded at the amount of time and space he was allowed in recovering the ball, giving him seconds to decide where to put it.
Decision made, he still had time to comb his hair and send it right to the toe of McCarty, from whom Shome was too far away, and the American shot low into the goal.
Shome was instrumental in the second goal too, waiting for a ball from Piette to reach him. It provided an easy interception opportunity for Calvo, who with the Impact back four now on their heels, slipped an easy ball to Katai. Katai to Nikolic who applied the simplest of finishes from close in. 2-0. Too easy.
Yes, the Impact did get back into the game and you might argue began to look like the most likely winners, but then old failings re-emerged with two minutes to play. Diallo lost Schweinsteiger from the corner, and the German added a simple header to win the game. Criminal defending once again.
Clearly with the Impact being within their current busy schedule of 5 games within 17 days, there is a need for squad rotation to keep players as fresh as possible. Last night’s starting eleven was not an inspiring one, but still one that should have done better against Chicago, a side which has struggled throughout the season. The Fire weren’t great last night either. They didn’t need to be.
Piatti, Lappalainen, Bojan and Raitala, were all benched, possibly with Wednesday night’s semi-final in mind, and although the first trio of those did see game time in the second-half, Remi Garde must now reflect and wonder what might have been had he utilized at least some of this quartet from the start.
Fire: Kronholm - Kappelhof, Schweinsteiger, Calvo, Bornstein - Bronico, McCarty - Katai, Gaitan (Mihailovic, 75), CJ Sapong - Nikolic (Frankowski, 56)
Impact: Bush - Sagna, Camacho, Diallo, Corrales - Piette - Okwonkwo (Piatti, 80), Shome (Bojan, 63), Taider, Choiniere (Lappalainen, 63) - Urruti
Referee - Chris Penso
Asst Refs - Mike Rottersman, Felisha Mariscal
4th Official - Allen Chapman
VAR - Sorin Stoica