It was ugly. Not in a brutal violent way, but in a way where words like passive, dull, bland or uneventful might portray.
It reminded how I imagine Italian catenaccio was throughout the sixties, except last night there were no liberos... and a lot less style. At least the Italians had style even when they were strangling the beautiful game to death.
Perhaps it’s the first match I’m glad I didn’t pay in to watch since Covid closed down the world. A positive of Covid? There! I found one.
One team incredibly well-organized defensively which achieved it’s perfect result, 1-0, against another devoid of creativity, guile or threat. I’ll excuse Clement Diop, whose two second-half saves kept the margin narrow and Quioto, for again the Honduran was the Montreal player who looked most likely.
Quioto was also incredibly unfortunate in the 84th minute, brilliantly latching onto an excellent ball from Bojan before producing a wonderfully composed finish. It was immensely out of context with the rest of the game. Perhaps why they decided the Honduran was offside as Bojan despatched his pass. If he was, it was marginal. I remain unconvinced. But why spoil an awful game by sanctioning a little piece of brilliance?
Even had the goal been allowed, it’s arguable if Montreal deserved parity, such was their lethargy of performance.
Just about the only thing right about the night was the result, although if this is how football is going to be, they can keep it...
But of course there are mitigating circumstances. However, even they don’t excuse Nashville’s ultra-defensive approach. At one point during the first-half they had every single player behind the ball, defending. I’m sure coach Gary Smith would’ve clandestinely slipped another couple of defenders on from his bench if he thought he’d get away with it.
The thing is they were actually very good at it. If Donald Trump wants a wall on his southern border, and for it to be aesthetically pleasing, he should hop over to Tennessee. Nashville deployed two of them last night in glistening gold which Montreal wouldn’t have pierced with a chieftain tank had the game lasted until the weekend.
The Impact looked like a tired, old team, shorn of idea or creativity, demoralized by two lines of defence that didn’t yield an inch. Never mind how well Nashville protected goalkeeper Joe Willis, their centre-back Walker Zimmerman will have had fewer easier nights. Not sure he even broke sweat.
Those mitigating circumstances... Undoubtedly this wretched season has taken it’s toll, and while recognizing the challenges faced by last night’s opponent in missing MLS-is-Back, Canadian clubs have been more severely handicapped than US counterparts. Of a 23-game program, Montreal, for example, had 4 home games. They wrestled with a chronic injury list in no small way contributed towards by an unreasonable schedule containing two spells of 5 away games in 15 days.
And... right at the beginning of the season, it’s doubtful if the Impact had a good enough squad to make play-off football anyhow.
Add all this up, include Nashville’s ultra-defensive strategy, and guess what you get?
Yeah! Last night! That’s it in a nutshell...
Soccer fans are right to be grateful for having anything to watch at all this season, but 2021 must be better organized. Cramming matches in and having teams play 83% of their fixtures away from home cannot be the answer. Over to you MLS...
Amazingly, the Impact, their 9th place looking perilous with those closest in pursuit playing this evening, can still reach the play-offs. MLS is possibly the only league in the world (pick any sport) where 10 from 14 clubs make the cut... even with Covid factored in.
But will it mean much?
Randall Leal, the outstanding player on the pitch last night won the game for Nashville, and when the goal came it was another rare piece of brilliance and speed of thought which caught out sleepy Montreal.
Fouled, Alex Muyl, the former Red Bulls player back in familiar surroundings, grabbed the ball, got to his feet and placed a perfectly weighted pass, all in one movement. Costa Rican international, Leal, already running between Binks and Corrales, met it behind Impact’s rearguard and slotted past Diop with ease.
Thirty-third minute. You could sense even then it could be game over.
And it was.
IMFC - Diop - Raitala, Waterman, Binks, Corrales - Piette (Toye, 88), Wanyama, Maciel (Sejdic, 72) - Urruti (Okwonkwo, 46), Bojan, Quioto.
Nashville - Willis - Johnston, Zimmerman, Romney, Lovitz - Leal (Washington, 86), Godoy (Anunga, 76), McCarty, Muyl - Jones (Danladi, 76), Rios (Cadiz, 61)
Match Officials -
- Referee: Ismail Elfath
- Asst Refs: Corey Parker, Kyle Atkins
- 4th Official: Thomas Snyder
- VAR: Chris Penso