Though the 2018 season is quite young, it has been a very disappointing one for the Montreal Impact. There was plenty of hope coming in for fans in this city as the team had signed high profile French coach Remi Garde and had signed or traded for players like Saphir Taider, Rod Fanni, Alejandro Silva, Raheem Edwards, Rudy Camacho, Jukka Raitala, and Michael Petrasso. But that enthusiasm for our MLS side has worn of quickly as they got out to a 2-6 start with a -11 goal differential (worst in league). The fans are angry. The players seem to have their heads down and this week the coach threw a couple of players under the bus. Does not instil confidence.
This week is an important one for the Impact with 3 games in 8 days. The first was a home tilt against Eastern Conference rivals as the team right ahead of them in the standings, the upstart New England Revolution. This is the second game against the Revolution having lost the first one 4-0 on the road. The pressure was definitely on. Especially since after a practice this week head coach Garde called out players like Raheem Edwards, Dominic Oduro and local boy Anthony Jackson-Hamel for a lack of effort in practice. Rare for a coach to do that. Had fans wondering if this meant there was chaos happening behind the scenes as well as on the field. All this added up to almost a must win at home for the Impact.
In an interesting move, Garde named two of the players he criticized, Jackson-Hamel and Edwards, to the starting 11. A show me what you got move. They both responded to the call contributing to the Impact’s 4-2 win. More importantly the bleu-blanc-noir collected three important points and remained in the playoff picture in the East.
On a four game losing streak, the Impact were looking to not only end it, but show that they could defend against a fast and strong Revolution side. The defensive unit for the Montreal team has been called into question as they have given up a lot of goals. With a league leading 21 goals against in 8 games the Impact defense has been porous at best.
Undisputed team best player, Ignacio Piatti was playing in his 100th game for the club. He is one, if not the only, player who can take over a game and that is exactly what he did before he was subbed off in the later stages. Statistically it was one of his best games ever with 3 passes and a goal. Totally showing his quality and earning the standing ovation he got as he left the field.
The 1st half was a rather dull affair. Neither side was able to muster much offence. The only chances Montreal created were in the 6th minute when Jackson-Hamel found himself on the end of a Piatti ball one on one against Claude Dielna in the Revolution box. He was knocked off the ball by Dielna causing some fans to cry out for an unwarranted penalty as it was definitely should to shoulder. Then in the 10th minute Daniel Lovitz crossed a ball into the box from the left hand side which seemed to find Edwards in some space, but his half volley could not find the target.
Both teams seemed content trying to move the ball around and then unleash long balls hoping to catch their opponents napping. That tactic did not work until the added on injury time. Saphir Taider, who played a very effective game in the middle of the pitch for Montreal, caused a turnover in his own end. The ball came to Piatti along the left hand side and he quickly played the ball forward into space. Reacting well, Jackson-Hamel found himself on a breakaway. Showing calmness that every striker should possess, Jackson-Hamel settled the ball, lifted his head and placed the ball (though it wasn’t the cleanest finish as it found part of the keeper and just made it over the goal line) into the net. 1-0 Montreal in the 2nd minute of 1st half injury time.
While the 1st half did not rate high on the excitement level, the 2nd was a completely different affair with 5 goals scored. Piatti totally took over the game showing that he is not only a great dribbler, but also can find his teammates with passes as well. The first pass found Jackson-Hamel in the 49th minute who showed composure again over the ball and chipped a smart shot to the far side of the net that beat the keeper again only to find the woodwork.
It did not take long for the Limoilou native to get another sniff at the Revolution net as in the 52nd minute Piatti sprung him again. This time he was on the right hand side and kept his shot low into the opposite side of the net making it 2-0 Montreal and the romp was on. You could feel it in the air. It was not a question of whether Montreal would score again, but when. The answer to that question was the 64th minute in their Impact’s typical transition style. Samuel Piette caused a turnover which Piatti got onto. This time he found Edwards who one timed a side foot into the far side for 3-0 Montreal. This was Piatti’s 3rd assist of the game and allowed him to pass Patrice Bernier as the Impact player with the most career assists.
Rounding out the scoring for Montreal was Piatti. He and Piette combined again with the central player showing his passing skills by picking out the streaking Argentinian. Settling the ball in one touch and then stroking the ball beyond the diving Matt Turner. 4-0 Montreal in the 68th minute. The atmosphere was electric and the fans forgot how mad they were with the team for a while at least.
New England scored two late goals, both by midfielder Wilfried Zahibo in the 78th and 86th minutes, which on the surface really did not mean anything, but if you really looked at things they were a little worrying. Both came off of dead ball situations (corner and free kick) which have proven again this season so far to be something that Montreal has trouble defending. They are a side which don’t do well defending with their heads and marking tightly. Both times Zahibo was able to find space and muscle away from his marker. 4-2 Montreal.
Not much time to rest on their laurels, as Montreal will face off against another Eastern side on Wednesday against the Chicago Fire on the road.
-Goals: 1st Half:
90 +2 minute: Montreal – Anthony Jackson-Hamel assisted by Ignacio Piatti
52nd minute: Montreal – Anthony Jackson-Hamel assisted by Ignacio Piatti and Alejandro Silva
65th minute: Montreal – Raheem Edwards assisted by Ignacio Piatti
68th minute: Montreal – Ignacio Piatti assisted by Samuel Piette
78th minute: New England – Wilfried Zahibo assisted by Diego Fagundez
86th minute: New England – Wilfried Zahibo
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 6
New England – 11
-Corners: Montreal – 6
New England – 10
-Final Score: Montreal – 4
New England – 2