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Impact Slump - What’s Now Required

Impact has a short window back in Montreal to see families and re-charge flat batteries.

Deportivo Saprissa v Montreal Impact: Leg 2 - 2020 CONCACAF Champions League
Samuel Piette - proud of how the players stuck to their identity against Bed Bulls, but acknowledges there’s much to correct.
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Speaking after Montreal’s fourth defeat on the bounce against the Reds Bulls, a disappointed Samuel Piette reflected on what went wrong and what is required to arrest the slide.

“We’re a team which wants to play out of the back, possess the ball and I think we did that very well, especially in the first-half. But defensively, every time you lose it and there’s a chance against you, it’s obviously very difficult.

“I think when we came in at half-time we knew we were still in the game, then we concede a goal where a shot was deflected and then at 3-1 it’s a different ball-game.

“That third goal hurt us but we stuck to the game plan, we tried to play out like I said, but 3-1 became 4-1 and obviously it’s really tough to come back. I’m proud of the boys that we stuck to our identity but obviously a lot of things to correct.”

Much has rightly been discussed around the difficult travel schedule and time on the road the squad has had to endure, but equally tangibly, fan empathy is wearing a little thin. There is consideration for what the playing squad is going through, but silly red cards and losing some games cheaply, only serve to fuel fan-frustration and thoughts turn away from the team’s challenge of constantly playing away from home.

Character and quality are buzzwords we often hear when Impact results trend negatively and so here we are again.

Piette admits while the team should have shown more character in the defeat at New England, “... because we didn’t play the way we wanted to play,” this was not something that carried over into the latest reverse at the hands of the Red Bulls, “... today [against the Red Bulls], we did...”

Even if character is questionable, it’s clear some quality is lacking. Without Quioto and Taider for the match against New York, you wondered where goals would come from. Despite Bojan’s magnificent solo strike, fears were realized. Bench, or all-round squad strength, never seemingly a serious enough consideration at Stade Saputo, remains problematic.

Okwonkwo’s availability may have helped, although questionable, and again Lassi Lappalainen who started the game like a house on fire, flattered to deceive. After that where do you look? Bojan clearly has talent, but needs a foil to play off. He’s not going to carry the weight of goalscoring responsibility solely on his slender shoulders.

SOCCER: SEP 27 MLS - Montreal Impact at New York Red Bulls
The highlight from Sunday night came after 4 mins. Bojan (above) celebrates his wonder-strike. It was all downhill thereafter.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The central defensive situation is another case in point. With Binks now suspended for the game on Saturday against Chicago, what’s the back-line going to look like? I shudder to think. An aging Rod Fanni, an error-prone Rudy Camacho, and a young, inexperienced teenager in Karifa Yao. Will all three play or two from three? Or do you disrupt another area in the team by moving Victor Wanyama back. Many options, just not many good ones.

I’ve no doubt Olivier Renard is working hard behind the scenes, and it will take time of course, but he needs to get Thierry Henry some help, and quickly if the Impact have serious play-off aspirations in this most haphazard of seasons. Personally, I prefer if they just get it right for 2021 - we’re nearly there already anyway.

But for the short-term and Chicago on Saturday, Sam Piette feels downtime at home can rejuvenate the squad.

“After four losses in a row, it couldn’t be a better time to go home with our loved ones and take some time off. I know that’s the case for me.

“When you go through a tough situation, you want to change your mind[set] a little bit, and that’s what we will do.

“I think we just need to take some time off and reflect on what we’ve done wrong, look ourselves in the mirror, each individual, and eventually when we are all back together, look at things we need to correct individually.”

A victory over the Fire will close the points gap on the top seven. Saturday already looks a ‘must-win’ given Montreal’s now traditional penchant for leaving things too late and missing the play-off line. Defeat could see the Impact drop out of the top ten.

Fans tired of hearing about injuries, suspensions and the team’s general ‘on the road’ woes are looking to see the squad man-up, display grit and character, and dig this one out. Chicago, currently beneath Montreal in the standings, is a side they should defeat at home (albeit a temporary home).

The monthly report card would say, “Must do much, much better.”