As a soccer fan I never dreamed there would be a day where I could attend a soccer game here and Didier Drogba, David Silva, Frank Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo would all be on the field. And yet this weekend at Saputo Stadium that is exactly what happened. I salute the MLS for becoming a league in which world class players (though at this point usually ones that are at the end of their careers) turn to. Due to the big names there was a big game atmosphere at the Saputo Stadium.
And as you might expect the place was jammed packed with the Impact getting their 5th sellout of the year. Lots of soccer fans here wanting to get up close and personal with that kind of talent. Besides the known trio of Lampard-Prilo-Villa, New York City even brings the star power in the form of their coach and former player, Patrick Vieira. Shows the difference having the power of the New York Yankees and Manchester City/Etihad (both part owners) behind makes. Two names were not participating in the game and unfortunately for Montreal fans they were both Impact players. Because of a tackle from the previous game, midfielder Ignacio Piatti was suspended by the league for one game and due to an ankle injury in his first game back from the Euros, central defender Laurent Ciman was also missing. Also missing due to injury from the Montreal roster was defender Donny Toia and midfielder Marco Donadel.
Despite missing two of their most important players Montreal had the run of play early in the game. They created a couple of scoring chances in the game’s first 20 minutes. As is more often the case than not striker Dominic Oduro could not cash in. He gets chances because of his blazing speed, but often cannot finish. Midfielder Harry Shipp, who has been playing better the last couple of games, also had a chance on a shot that went just wide. In the game’s opening moments Drogba had the best chance of the lot chesting down a pass from Shipp only to have his shot parried away by the New York City keeper, Josh Saunders.
As you might have expected coming in as the 1st place side in the Eastern Conference and with all that fire power, FCNYC opened the scoring first. Also, to be expected it was one of their big names with striker David Villa notching his league leading 13th goal in the game’s 35th minute. The FCNYC striker made Impact central defender Victor Cabrera look weak on the play by totally outdueling him for a ball. Cabrera ended up on the ground. Alone the Spanish native does not often make mistakes from that distance. He calmly stroked the ball along the ground with pace to the far side of the net beyond a diving Evan Bush. 1-0 FCNYC.
Montreal had a solid chance to tie up the score in the 40th minute of the 1st half when Michael Salazar was fouled just outside of the FCNYC box. Of course, Drogba took the kick as he has scored a couple this season on similar free kicks. He managed to get it up and over the FCNYC wall and on the net, but Josh Saunders got a fist to the ball at the last minute to punch it up over the crossbar. Montreal could not do anything on the ensuing corner.
One of the most damaging things a team can do in any sport is give up a goal or score at the end or beginning of a period or half. Montreal severely damaged their hopes of getting back into this game by doing just that. In injury time (40th + 2 minute) of the 1st half, again the Impact’s defensive deficiencies hurt them. This time is was Ambroise Oyongo who was the victim. Again a Montreal defender went to ground and did not come up with the ball. Facing New York City midfielder Jack Harrison just inside the box Oyongo tried a sliding tackle, but Harrison managed to dribble around him and launched a shot into the far side of the net once again eluding Bush. A great individual effort from Harrison and signalling fans that he might be a star in the making. New York City was, like all good sides seem to be able to do, cashing in on their opportunities. At half they had 3 shots and scored on 2 of them. Montreal had 6 with nothing to show for it. 2-0 FCNYC.
I have come to realize that Oyongo is a talent offensively as a wingback with his ability to dribble and cross the ball, but defensively he is a liability. Only his speed keeps him competitive in the defensive third. Here’s to hoping that the wingback that Montreal recently traded young striker Cameron Porter for, Amadou Dia, can help them out in this regard. I would also like to see more of recent draft choice Kyle Fisher. Montreal needs some help on defence.
Starting off the 2nd half trailing 2-0 to a quality side like New York City is a tough ask for any team. Even if you are the home side. To their credit, Montreal did not give up and clawed their way back in…temporarily. In the 55th minute they scored on a rather weak goal, but they all count. Shipp was coming down the left side and seemed to mean to cross the ball in front of goal to an onrushing Drogba. FCNYC keeper thought his defender Frédéric Brillant was going to clear the ball. When he missed it Saunders was flat footed, reacted late and the weakly played ball found its way into the far side of the net. This continues Shipp positive contribution of late and is his 2nd goal of the campaign with his first at home. 2-1 FCNYC.
With Montreal pushing hard at the end of the game trying for the tying goal they were left vulnerable to the counterattack. New York City sealed the game just that way. Villa led a 3-on-2 rush the other way and played a ball into the box to Lampard. His first touch of the ball deflected off of central defender Wandrille Lefèvre, who seemed to be playing the entire game with a leg problem he picked up early on, bouncing high into the air over Bush’s head and into the empty net. Bad luck. Game over. 3-1 FCNYC.
To be noted, for the Impact recently signed Italian player Matteo Mancosu came into the game for Shipp in the 64th minute. It was his first minutes for the team since being signed a couple of weeks ago. It will take a little time for him to get used to his teammates and style of play in the MLS, but what I saw made me hopeful.
The loss ended Montreal’s 6 game unbeaten streak. They still remain in 4th place in the Eastern Conference with games in hand on most teams. Next up is game at home on Saturday against the Philadelphia Union.
-Goals: 1st Half:
35th minute: New York City – David Silva assisted by Thomas McNamara
40th + 2 minute: New York City – Jack Harrison assisted by Thomas McNamara
55th minute: Montreal – Harry Shipp assisted by Ambroise Oyongo
85th minute: New York City – Frank Lampard
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 5
New York City – 4
-Corners: Montreal – 11
New York City – 5
-Final Score: Montreal – 1
FCNYC – 3