With the season heading into the final stretch (14 games left for the Impact), the Montreal Impact still hold faint hopes of making the MLS playoffs, They are in ninth place with the top six qualifying for the post season. Going into this game against the Kaka-led Orlando City they sat eight points behind the sixth place Columbus Crew. Meaning that every game remaining would be like a playoff game for the bleu-blanc-noir. Their season has been really up and down, but it was time to start playing like a quality club.
With the recent trade for defender Shaun Francis and the signings of central defender Deian Boldor from Bologna and Canadian national midfielder Samuel Piette obviously the ownership and management have not thrown in the towel on the season. These players should all bolster the problematic Impact defensive unit. Management has done what it could and now it is up to players like Ignacio Piatti, Evan Bush, Laurent Ciman, and Blerim Dzemaili to play as they are capable of.
Evan Bush has to be better. He has been Montreal’s number one keeper for a few years now and must start playing like a number one. This season has not been a bright spot in his career. A top level shot stopper, he has never been great at owning his box and distributing the ball. This season those two skills have gotten even worse resulting in some dodgy moments stopping the ball. Montreal has conceded eight goals from outside the box this season; the most in the MLS. Bush has got to be better.
It has gotten so evident that last game head coach Mauro Biello gave young Canadian back-up, Maxime Crepeau, his first starting assignment in the MLS. It was the team’s last game before the All-Star break and against Eastern rivals, the New York Red Bulls. The Impact were awful and were crushed 4-0, but it most certainly was not Crepeau’s fault. It could have been worse as he made some big saves.
As expected Bush was back as the starter against Orlando City. This was a must win for the home side and they needed a solid performance from the veteran keeper. Despite the fact that everyone in the sold out stadium knew this the Impact got off to a less than stellar start and Bush should shoulder a big part of the blame as to why the Impact saw themselves down 1-0 after only 12 minutes played.
In a trend that would span the entire game Montreal enjoyed the majority of the possession early on. They moved the ball around well, stringing together a number of uninterrupted passes. As has also been the case often this season the possession did not lead to clear cut scoring chances. They did not create high danger chances for forward Matteo Macosu or midfielder Piatti. They did create a number of corners though it was off of one that Orlando was able to break away and score.
To get some height in the box on corners, central defender Ciman and wingback Chris Duvall move forward. That leaves players like Marco Donadel and Victor Cabrera back to defend. Orlando City midfielder Will Johnson played a desperate clearing ball off of one such corner. It seemed initially like Donadel was in a good position against forward Cyle Larin. Then in a blink of an eye Larin outmuscled the Italian midfielder. A very hesitant Bush decided too late to come out after the ball and gave Larin an empty net to shoot at from a wide angle. Bush has to anticipate that better or stay in his net believing that he can save a shot from a wide angle from the opposing forward. It was ugly all the way through with Larin, his first goal since May 31, making something out of nothing and Orlando City going up 1-0 early on the road.
The rest of the 1st half continued to see Montreal dominate in possession (60% to 40%), but no goals. On this cloudy and windy night the mood the crowd and probably the home dressing room was equally grey. To make matters even more downcast, coming out of the halftime break a light rain began. Like the magician he has shown himself to be, Piatti, making his first start in a month after suffering an adductor injury, made it go away.
As we have seen many times over his time with the club Piatti can dance with the ball at this feet. He has made many a player miss tackles and some find themselves so flustered that they end up taking him down. This is exactly what happened to Orlando City defender Jose Aja. He tripped Piatti as he was cutting inside. A penalty shot was awarded. Piatti stepped forward to take it. He went along the grown to the left. Joe Bendik guessed right and managed to get an arm to it, but the velocity of the shot allowed it to bounce off of him and up into the corner of the net. The game was tied and the rain had stopped. It was Piatti’s fifth goal in seven games against Orlando City.
Despite the fact that he is not at a hundred percent yet Piatti is still a great player. He causes something to happen almost every time he is on the ball. He continued to put a show on when in the 72nd minute after some dribbling he launched a shot from outside the box that had Bendik beaten but only found the crossbar. The man creates opportunities out of nothing. Pure quality.
Montreal’s super sub, Anthony Jackson-Hamel, came into the game for Mancosu in the 79th minute and had an impact yet again. It only took 5 minutes for him to put his stamp on the game. Off a quick transition and great through ball by Dzemaili, Jackson-Hamel proved himself a game changer yet again by notching the winning goal. He was at a sharp angle, but, as goal scorers do, managed to trickle a shot past Bendik that fooled the keeper. It was similar to Larin’s goal in the 1st half and was his sixth of the season. Five of his goals have happened during his eight substitution appearances. The celebration began on he field and in the stands.
The comeback win was a first for Montreal this season. It was the first time they have come back to win a game they were trailing at half. This is the third game in a row in which Orlando City has conceded in the latter stages of a game and dropped points. And we think that Montreal is having defensive issues!?!
Not to be cruel, but I don’t want to see Dominic Oduro getting any more starts. He has done nothing this season to earn them and creates precious little when he is on the field. His speed is not even making any difference. Younger players like Michael Salazar and when healthy Ballou Tabla have moved ahead of him. Another player who should not be getting any more starting assignments is Daniel Lovitz. He has been put in injured Ambroise Oyongo’s left wingback position and has for the most part been subpar. Offensively he contributes nothing and his defensive marking has been spotty at best. To top it off he gives the ball away cheaply too often. Time for Shaun Francis (who played the last 5 minutes in place of Piatti) to get the starting assignment. At least he is offensive minded.
Next up for Montreal is a game on the road against the Philadelphia Union. It is another important game (they all will be) for the Impact as the Union sit right above them in the standings. A win by Montreal will see them leap frog over Philadelphia into 8th place.
Referee: Kevin Stott
Assistant Referees: Claudiu Badea, Craig Lowry
Fourth Official: Geoff Gamble
VAR: Ted Unkel
12th minute: Orlando City – Cyle Larin
48th minute: Montreal – (pk) Ignacio Piatti
84th minute: Montreal – Anthony Jackson-Hamel assisted by Blerim Dzemaili
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 7
Orlando City – 2
-Corners: Montreal – 9
Orlando City – 7
-Player of the Game: Ignacio Piatti
-Attendance: 20,801 (sold out)
-Final Score: Montreal – 2
Orlando City – 1