What a let-down!
Four months since football stopped for lockdown, Impact fans were hoping for something better than the 1-0 ‘slaughtering’ their team received tonight. Optimism and expectation was in the Montreal air. Encouraging and positive noises emerged from player press conferences over the past week and everyone was raring to go. Except perhaps, the team itself...
I’m unsure how many weeks of actual training each of last night’s teams had behind them, but New England looked fresh, focussed, fit and sharp, while Montreal blew exhaust fumes before the interval had even arrived.
It was a match between teams at different levels. Revs were very much on the front foot, Impact on their heels. How the tallies remained scoreless at half-time can only be attributed to poor finishing by the Revs.
After the initial sparring, it began to look ominous for Montreal. Even with only 25 mins on the clock you sensed this could be a long night.
There was a catalogue of opportunities. On 19, Diop dived to his left to save from Carles Gil, on 34 Penilla went past Camacho as though the Frenchman didn’t exist, his angled drive missing the far post by a whisker, three minutes later Camacho gave possession away to Kelyn Rowe, but Binks and Raitala combined to thwart the danger.
On 40, the Revs counter-attacked after turning over possession, Bou rounded Diop who had gone ‘walkies’, but the Argentinian’s goal bound effort was covered by Binks between the posts. And on 46 that man Bou again caused problems getting in between Binks and Fanni and lobbing over Diop. This was the New England striker’s easiest chance and Bruce Arena’s wince knew it, as the ball went the wrong side of the post.
If Montreal were clearly second-best in the first-half, a substitution and a tweak hatched in the sanctuary of the dressing room provided much promise in the ten minutes after the restart.
It was then that Montreal enjoyed its best spell of the game and indeed should have taken the lead on 50 mins when Piette played in Urruti whose shot was blocked by ‘keeper Turner.
Urruti was given a second chance as the loose ball rebounded towards him, but alertness was lacking, his wild slash despatching the ball only to safety.
The substitution was Brault Guillard for an out of sorts Okwonkwo, who clearly felt the best way to goal was by running through his opponent, not round or past him... The Nigerian has had many better nights. And the tweak? Well, Sam Piette started the game on the right side of a back five. It was like watching a fish out of water. Astonished fans expected this not to go well. They weren’t wrong, Piette reverting to type and a more accustomed midfield berth for the second-half.
But the Impact revival met with resistance and was floored on 56 mins when Gustavo Bou swivelled on the edge of the box, eluding the challenge of Fanni far too easily and despatched a rocket into the roof of Diop’s net. The Impact goalkeeper may have smelt it, but he was never going to stop it. 1-0.
And so it remained until the end of the game, surprisingly. New England had further opportunities, Penilla and Bou each proving a handful for the Impact rearguard, although Buksa, of whom much has been heard was anonymous.
Tabla a 75th minute substitute for hard-working Urruti troubled Turner with a 20-yarder in the 5th minute of added time, but had the custodian not pushed the ball away for a corner, an equalizer would have been a travesty. Still we’d have taken it.
The obligatory face-mask couldn’t disguise the disappointment and anger in Thierry Henry’s expression at the post-match press-conference.
Again, in what has become an accustomed theme, he questioned their fight.
“We are not here to make excuses, I did not like the attitude of the team at all, we lost all our duels, we lost balls without pressure.
“If you go into the field without will and making so many mistakes, you can’t win. Fighting and not losing balloons has been our thing from the start.
“We didn’t have a fighting spirit and if you don’t have that in a match, you can’t win, no matter the tactics.”
A disappointed Saphir Taider said, “... we didn’t show up enough and should have made more efforts,” and, “We started the second-half well, but their goal broke our legs a bit.”
A huge improvement is needed next Wednesday when the team take on rivals Toronto FC, if an early return back to Montreal is to be avoided.
Last night wasn’t good enough, Thierry Henry has much to think about...
IMFC - Diop - Piette (Lappalainen, 84), Binks, Camacho, Fanni, Raitala - Wanyama - Okwonkwo (Brault-Guillard, 46), Taider, Bojan (Quioto, 57) - Urruti (Tabla, 75)
Subs not used: Bush, Corrales, Tao, Shome, Sejdic, Choiniere, Maciel, Jackson-Hamel
NE Revs - Turner - Mancienne (Kessler, 67), Bye, Millar, Buttner (Jones, 81) - Caldwell S, Bou, Rowe, Gil, Penilla (Buchanan, 86) - Buksa (Bunbury, 86)
Subs not used: Knighton, Caldwell J, Sinovic, Fagundez, Zahibo, Angking, Rivera, Rennicks
Match Officials -
Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr
Asst Ref: Nick Uranga
Asst Ref: Chris Elliott
4th Official: Joseph Dickerson
VAR: Drew Fisher
Asst VAR: Kathryn Nesbitt