So... Montreal’s football team flopped during the run-in. Play-offs again are a distant dream!
Should anyone really be surprised? Well, erm.... not really...
New name, old habits, I’m afraid the CFM days have started just like the IMFC days closed, with sequences of poor results at the business end of regular season schedules.
Apart from the play-off years of 2015 (9 pts) and 2016 (7 pts), the Stade Saputo outfit has reaped poor dividends across the last five regular season games of any season you care to mention. A points haul of 7 also appeared in 2018, Remi Garde’s first year in charge, but ultimately there was too much ground to make up to matter.
The blunt truth generally is when the going gets tough and the tough get going, Montreal is found wanting.
In the last five games of Impact’s first three MLS seasons (15 matches in total), they won just one, a narrow 2-1 come-from-behind victory, which needed a rare 84th minute headed goal by Karl Ouimette to limp into play-off football. This was after Marco Schallibaum’s team had lead the league in 2013 with maximum points after 4 games.
You’d even be excused for thinking they’d done their best to not achieve post-season football back then; of the 4 other concluding regular-season games that season, defeat was avoided in none.
So not a great time of the season traditionally for Montreal followers...
The purple patch arrived in those 2015 and 2016 seasons (5-4-1 in the last 5 games over both seasons), a short era when the fans in relative dreamland, took for granted they had a team capable of competing with the MLS’ big boys, at least at home (away form was never stellar).
But from 2017 on, it’s been a case of reverting to type. In 25 ‘last-five’ regular season games since, only 6 wins have arrived. There have been 15 defeats. Never mind championship or play-off form, this is not even mid-table form!
Only in one solitary season (2015), could anybody really argue the team stepped up its game during the run-in. Each of seasons 2016, 2018 and 2020 saw form across the last five games reflect parity or marginal improvement against trends across the full body of a season, but it was only in 2015 when marked improvement was evident. Perhaps surprisingly so as well, since 4 of the last 5 games that year were on the road and the last, the only one at home, was a derby against bitter rivals Toronto FC.
But for once character shone through and nerve held as the Impact followed up defeats to Orlando and the Red Bulls, winning road games to nil against Colorado and New England before two Drogba goals in as many minutes sank the Toronto Reds without trace.
Montreal’s MLS existence is now ten years old. An analysis of the last five matches from each regular season schedule (a total of 50 matches - 5 games x 10 seasons) uncovers that over half (26) have ended in defeat as compared to 44% across the team’s entire MLS history.
The same sample declares 12 victories (24%). Montreal’s win ratio throughout its entire MLS tenure is 35%. Draw your own conclusions.
It’s almost as though the season is too long... Whether it’s down to lack of character, resolve, just simply being not good enough (or that the opposition is better/stronger), Montreal teams certainly appear incapable of peaking at the business end of the regular season... apart from one clear example six years ago.
Interestingly however, Montreal’s defending tends towards significant and consistent improvement over the last five games of a season as compared to the full schedule. In no fewer than nine of ten MLS campaigns to date, Montreal’s defence has become meaner over the last five matches of a season (see table, where green highlights display where performance has been superior in the last five games of a season compared to the full regular schedule).
Conversely though, the goals dried up at the other end. Never in the club’s MLS history has it managed a better goals per game ratio over the last five games of a season, compared to a whole campaign.
Teams remaining in contention are clearly more ‘up’ for games at the end of the season which brings tighter, more intensely-focused competition in the chase for precious points.
Back to the present and 2021 has not been a disastrous year, at least not on the field. But there have been so many false dawns in the past, I hesitate to suggest green shoots are appearing. Some positive things have been evident on the playing side under Renard and Nancy and there appears to be a process in place.
But the old failings need fixing. Late season form is evidently one. Tailing off in disappointment at the end of yet another season has already become tiring.
Let’s hope the Franco-Belgian Alliance can crack the problem...