As the dust began to settle amongst the euphoria of last evening’s success at Audi Park, you wondered how significant that winning goal was, or rather could be...
Of course it was vital in that it sent Montreal Impact into the play-offs for the first time in four long years, that much is obvious, but my preponderance is more about the future and what it may herald.
For all the positive developments witnessed around playing style this season, Thierry Henry’s Montreal Impact had still not displayed an ability to dig themselves out of a hole. Or even find a late winner or game-tying goal of any sort.
It went further back than that, actually. The last time an Impact player scored in the 85th minute or later in an MLS game to either clinch three points or save one, was back in August 2018. Dan Lovitz was the unlikely hero that evening settling things in the first minute of added time to see off Chicago Fire at Stade Saputo.
It been quite some time since you watched the Impact, expecting they might get a late equalizer or steal a game at the death. They’ve simply not been good at pulling games out of the fire!
That it finally happened last night is not the only positive however. Think about the make-up of the goal. Manufactured by Kizza and Toye, converted by Quioto.
None of those three were here this time last year.
All signings of Olivier Renard and each with the look of young and exciting acquisitions, even if it’s taken Toye a while longer to get going than some anticipated.
It’s way too early to be getting carried away of course, but that one move last night down the left flank may just be the epitome of a turnaround in Montreal Impact fortunes.
Neither Renard or Henry claimed this would be easy, neither suggested transformation would happen overnight. But this could be one of the more significant signs to emerge so far.
The play-off match against New England will be difficult, and even if the result is unfavourable, it won’t stand in the way of continued development on the playing side at Stade Saputo. A defeat won’t confirm a false dawn either, because we haven’t even seen the sun begin to rise. Not just yet.
But there are good things happening, and Impact fans can anticipate a busy close season no matter what, and not only because of the Champions League.
The organization right now appears more professional and better equipped than ever before to set forth a proper plan and adhere to it. With the notable exception of Bojan all new arrivals fit the profile of ‘young and ambitious with ability’, and by the way, the Spaniard’s quite a handy too, especially should Renard and Henry surround him with the right components.
Renard’s track record at Montreal Impact in respect of recruitment passes the acid-test and there’s no reason to think the trend won’t continue.
There are more reasons for optimism now than for three or four seasons, and that’s nothing to do with play-off qualification, because we’d all do well to remember the Impact finished only ninth in the East. To be fair, we should also not forget either, they had a tougher schedule than all five of the US clubs that finished beneath them, and also some that finished above.
The prospects for next season will certainly not be shaped by what happens in the 2020 play-offs.
While it would be nice to get a run in those knock-out stages, there are more important things going on that will define Montreal’s advancement in MLS throughout 2021.
Keep the faith!