Coming into this game which was the finale of the Montreal versus Toronto in sports weekend Toronto FC coach Ryan Nelson was quoted as saying this was a “must win” for his team. To say that the same was true for Montreal wouldn’t be correct as I don’t think there are enough games left in the season (13 including this one) to make up the ground they need to for playoff participation. For Montreal then, this was certainly an “it would be nice to win one” game.
It was a busy week for the Impact despite the fact that they did not play until this game. A lot of attention came their way due to Joey Saputo’s announcement mid-week of the firing of long-time general manager Nick De Santis. De Santis paid the price for the club’s poor season so far. He has been criticized for not making any significant moves in the off season and several of his moves this year have not borne fruit. Easier to fire him than move 11 players, so Saputo did just that saying that De Santis would stay with team, but in another capacity. Saputo also announced that Klopas would stay with the team through 2015 and really start working in his capacity of Director of Player Personnel.
As if that wasn’t enough the team also made some roster moves trading midfielder Sanna Nyassi to head coach Frank Klopas’s former team, the Chicago Fire, for young attacking midfielder, Dilly Duka. Montreal also loaned out little used striker Santiago Gonzalez to a Uruguayan club side and to replace him signed forward Anthony Jackson-Hamel, a product of the Impact U23 team.
On the field 33-year-old Troy Perkins regained his starting position in nets. These last games of the season are important for several players including Perkins, as they are trying to win spots on next year’s team. Another veteran, Heath Pearce found himself out of the starting line-up after a couple of so-so performances. Futty Danso was making the start in the central defense alongside the recovered from injury Matteo Ferrari. Danso came on in Ferrari’s place during the last game against Portland and comported himself well earning a spot in the starting 11. Rookie and top Impact 2014 draft choice Eric Miller was also back in the starting 11 after being out with an injury. However, he was slotted in a new position as a holding midfielder beside captain Patrice Bernier. Also, Klopas was back to the more offensive 4-4-2 formation with Jack McInerney starting alongside Marco Di Vaio. This meant that midfielder Felipe was the odd man out starting on the bench. The highly anticipated Ignacio Piatti will not be with the team until the middle of the month, so no relief is coming from there.
Montreal-Toronto contest no matter the sport are always hotly contested due to the rivalry between the two cities. As the Argonauts had crushed the Alouettes on Friday night at Percival Molson Stadium the Impact were being counted on to make the weekend a draw. Too bad for fans in attendance that striker Jermain Defoe was out of the game due to a nagging thigh injury. Though I’m sure the Impact players didn’t mind it as they had others to worry about. It was the first time the Impact would face excellent Toronto midfielder and U.S. National Team player, Michael Bradley. He would have to be a focal point for the defense of the Impact as he is the engine of the Toronto side. Bradley is tireless running all over the field. It was shocking that knowing that how much time and space the midfielder found himself with over the course of the 90 minutes.
Toronto, though having a better season than Montreal, was going through their own rough patch. They had not won in their last 4 games and were had just 1 win in their last 8. Montreal had their own problems as they were in the midst of a 5 game losing streak. They played the game in their royal blue and black stripe kits while Toronto was wearing all red.
When a team is going through a tough time their confidence is fragile. What they need is a good start to a game to boost said confidence. Make them believe in themselves and their ability to compete. Don’t play scared. This was not the start Impact fans got.
Right from the start you could see that the Montreal defense was backing off too far and giving Toronto loads of time and space over the ball. You could also see that they were going to have some trouble wrangling Toronto’s Brazilian striker Gilberto. He is very quick and that was causing all kinds of problems for the Impact defense. They looked totally unsure how to handle it.
That combination of space and speed led to an early chance for Toronto. You could see that they were really taking the initiative to dictate the play while Montreal seemed content to sit back. In the 8th minute Bradley got an open shot on Perkins from within the penalty area. Thankfully his shot from 12 yards was right at the Montreal keeper. It was a sign of things to come, though. On the second good Toronto scoring chance Montreal was not so lucky. In the 11th minute Toronto opened the scoring courtesy of Gilberto. For the second time in just a couple of minutes fullback Justin Morrow had gotten away from his mark, Justin Mapp. He was all alone on the left side in the Montreal third of the field. Morrow, with his head up, played the ball square to Bradley in the middle of the pitch. Bradley quickly found and open Dominic Oduro on the right side. Oduro first timed the ball to Gilberto inside the penalty area. Perkins managed to get his hands on the Toronto striker’s first time blast, but it was so strong that it continued on to hit the underside of the crossbar then bounced down over the line. 1-0 Toronto.
When the opposing team scores first Montreal is a dismal 0-9-1. They are a team with very little confidence and weary of losing and it showed over the course of the remaining 79 minutes. Over a large portion of the game the Impact had a hard time stringing together 5 successive passes. This was due to very little running off the ball. The only scoring chance they had in the 1st half was in the 39th minute. Mapp carried the ball along the right side and played it to the middle to Bernier. For once he had a little space and his left footed shot from 20 yards went just by the post to the left of Toronto keeper, Joe Bendik. If you are looking for a silver lining the team did end the 1st half stronger than they began it.
Truth be told several of the veteran players looked like they did not want to be there and it showed in their lack of effort. They were a side just going through the motion. This became even more evident when Toronto doubled their lead early on in the 2nd half. In the 54th minute Luke Moore cemented the victory for the visitors with an unassisted goal. Bradley saw the space and sent an inviting ball for Oduro to run onto. Left fullback Krzysztof Krol, who has not played very well over the past couple of games, was beaten to it though he managed to recover. Oduro’s attempt to center the ball went off the foot of the Impact defender towards the goal. The net was vacated as Perkins had come out to challenge a potential shot from Oduro. Moore was first to the loose ball and just had to tuck it into the empty goal. 2-0 Toronto.
After that goal, despite Klopas bringing on the newly arrived Duka – wearing number 11, Felipe and Jackson-Hamel (his first minutes in the MLS) – wearing number 24 – in the hopes of injecting some offence, once again the game was like the beginning in that it was too easy for Toronto. When Montreal did win the ball back they lost it quickly as there was no help for the player with the ball. To add injury to insult, fullback Hassoun Camara was issued a yellow card in the 77th minute for an ill-advised tackle. He will have to miss the Impact’s next MLS game for an accumulation of yellows.
Toronto could have even made it 3-0 in the 82nd minute off of former Impact player Collen Warner’s corner kick. Fullback Nick Hagglund got away from his mark, Krol, and got his head on the ball. Perkins made an important touch on it deflecting it onto the crossbar. It was then cleared out for another corner.
The speed and desire of the young Jackson-Hamel was the lone bright spot for Montreal. In the dying moments of added time he managed to get the team’s best scoring chance. Miller, who was moved back to his more typical outside fullback position in the 2nd half due to an injury to Danso, and Andrés Romero played the ball back and forth deep in the Toronto end. Miller was finally able to get enough space to cross the ball into the penalty area. Jackson-Hamel rose up and his header looked like it was going in the open side of the net when Bendik came up wih a diving save to his right. When it rains it pours. One goal could have made a difference, not in the game, but in the confidence level of the Impact players.
Toronto fans (nice pocket of them at the game) who had traveled to see their team play went away happy and the team had an important 3 points. The visitors stuck to their game plan of winning at all costs and pretty much dominated the entire game. Whereas Montreal came out of game with few positives. It was the 5th game in a row that they had given up 2 goals or more and was their 6th loss in a row. Montreal further cemented themselves in the basement of the MLS.
It is everything from the little things to the more important elements of their game that has let the Impact down this season. For example, Montreal has no goals from dead ball situations this season and has surrendered several off of free kicks and corners. Nothing is working. Klopas and his players have to come up with some answers and pride quickly.
August is a busy month for the Impact. They have 5 MLS games as well as 2 CONCACAF Championship games. No rest for the beaten down. Next game for Montreal is Tuesday evening at Saputo Stadium. It is part of the group stage of the CONCACAF Championship. They will open the group stage by playing Salvadorian side Club Deportivo.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Armando Villarreal
Linesmen – Daniel Belleau and Danny Thornberry
-Goals: 1st Half:
-11th minute: Toronto – Gilberto assisted by Dominic Oduro and Michael Bradley
-54th minute: Toronto – Luke Moore unassisted
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 4
Toronto – 6
-Corners: Montreal – 5
Toronto – 3
-Man of the Match: Anthony Jackson-Hamel
Final Score: Montreal – 0
Toronto – 2