The 1642 Supporters let off a billowing cloud of grey smoke during last night’s half-time interval. I’m not sure if it was meant to be symbolic, but symbolic it certainly was.
In a flat, error-ridden first 45 minutes, the Impact meekly allowed its MLS season to come to an abrupt end.
Bang, bang, bang. Mistake, mistake, mistake.
DC United, without Rooney, should have been coming here in trepidation, but in effect all Montreal’s welcome lacked was a coffee and a tray of delights for their visitors.
It was that easy. It was that comfortable. I shouldn’t wonder if the men from the US capital would like another Stade Saputo vacation before the season is out.
Still on the subject of symbols, it took until midway through the second-half before we saw a challenge from an Impact player that suggested, ‘this is our place, you can’t do what you please here’. That was when Piette’s shoulder to shoulder challenge sent Lucas Rodriguez into the advertising hoardings. But it was far too little, far, far too late.
Montreal Impact as a team are much too nice.
They were in trouble as soon as Rudy Camacho picked up a 20th minute yellow card after fouling the same Lucas Rodriguez 25 yards from goal. Moreno’s free-kick, lacking in precision squirmed past Okwonkwo and Lappalainen, the dead centre of the Impact wall, the ball fortuitously rolling into the path of Ola Kamara, who finished with ease.
Kamara had a part in the second goal too, although it went unnoticed by referee Chapman who allowed play to continue after the DC man had cleverly leant into Piette, as the Montreal captain rose for a header.
Paul Arriola raced onto the loose ball straight through the heart of the defence leaving four Impact defenders in his wake, before lifting the ball beyond Bush and into the net. A refereeing error it may have been, but it should not disguise Montreal’s inability to deal with the situation.
Another customary set-piece failure was still to come. And we didn’t have long to wait for it. A 32nd minute corner was floated in by Felipe. Two DC United players waited at the back post with only Okwonkwo in between. Frederic Brilliant rose to head the ball back into the six-yard area and Kamara was on hand to divert the ball past Bush with his head.
There was a second-half reaction from the home side but really, the Impact huffed and puffed and weren’t able to create much, despite enjoying plenty of ball. All DC needed to do was sit back, absorb and clear Montreal’s strange aerial approach in their attempts to gain a foothold. Strange because to my recollection, only on one occasion did an Impact head find a cross successfully. That was when Camacho met a Taider corner, the ball flying comfortably into Hamid’s hands. Yet Montreal persisted with the aerial bombardment, which really was ‘meat and drink’ to the physically stronger and taller DC defence.
Each time the Impact has had a chance to impress in front of a big crowd this season, they’ve royally blown it. Last evening was set-up thus. Back in the play-off race, matters very much in their own hands, beautiful night, enthusiastic crowd and a full stadium.
What could go wrong?
Sadly the answer was, ‘Everything!’
The wisdom of replacing the coach, or more to the point, the timing, must be questioned. Clearly management felt the change would provide the fillip the squad needed to get over the line. It was very short-term thinking, if not hugely risky to any play-off chance that remained. Different story if the new man coming in was ‘the chosen one’ and a coach who would lead the side through the rest of this season into the next, but I don’t think in Wilmer Cabrera, anyone believes this is the case.
No harm to Wilmer, it’s not his fault, but it looks like he’ll not be around long enough to learn French after all.
There were brave noises from some players post-match, that they still have four games left in which to make the play-offs. From the coach too, who said he ‘still believed in this team’.
Cabrera talked of the demanding schedule and how his players had looked tired in recent days. It still didn’t stop him naming the same line-up as began the game in the narrow victory over Vancouver, midweek.
In his defence, bench-strength is hardly an embarrassment of riches, so what changes could he make?
The Impact had penalty claims denied in the 82nd minute in a strange sequence where the stadium announcer seemed to declare that VAR was looking at the play which ended in Tabla’s shot being blocked by a defender’s hand. But never was the game paused, suggesting the officials, VAR and the administration were mis-aligned.
It was that sort of night, if you’re an Impact fan.
IMFC - Bush - Sagna, Camacho (Brault-Guillard, 87), Raitala, Lovitz - Okwonkwo (Tabla, 72), Taider, Piette, Lapalainen (Shome, 78) - Bojan, Urruti.
DC United - Hamid - Canouse, Brilliant, Birnbaum, Mora - Arriola (Acosta, 87), Felipe, Acosta, Moreno, Segura (Jara, 90) - Kamara (Amarikwa, 87)
Match Officials -
Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referees: Adam Wienckowski, Jeremy Kieso
4th Official: Elvis Osmanovic
VAR: Kevin Terry Jr