Getting back on a winning way was on the mind of all Montreal sports fans. The Montreal Canadiens, after clinching a spot in the playoffs, had seen their level of play drop so drastically that fans had begun pushing the panic button. In the soccer world the Montreal Impact begun their season on a 4 game winning streak and then 3 games without a win (1 tie and 2 losses), so the memories of the very beginning of the season seem very dim indeed. On this double header day both teams would be playing with the Impact up first against the Chicago Fire.
Unlike the Impact the Chicago Fire did not have a good start to the season. Besides having a 2-4-1 start, they are allowing a lot of goals (12) and scoring precious few (6). Montreal could not be going into the game taking the Fire lightly for they seem to be turning their season around as they had won 2 out of their last 3 games.
In this sunny day at Saputo Stadium in front of almost a full house there was to be a somewhat surprising change in Montreal’s formation. Surprising because rookie coach Marco Schallibaum seem to favour the 4-1-4-1 formation. Not too surprising because the coach was not too happy with Montreal’s offense lately. This was to be a very offensive line up for Montreal. The formation was to be a 4-4-2. It made sense as it would help out Marco Di Vaio up front as he would not have to play alone and would insert newcomer Daniele Paponi.
25-year-old Italian Daniele Paponi made his first start for Montreal up front alongside Di Vaio. He is a player that the Impact got on loan from Di Vaio’s former team Bologna. Montreal is slowly taking on the look of an Italian Serie A team. In the starting 11 besides Paponi there were 3 other Italians (Alessandro Nesta, Di Vaio and Andrea Pisanu) plus 1 usual starter out with an injury (Matteo Ferrari). All the Italians have come in and had a good effect on the team and in the dressing room. Paponi’s career so far has been a series of loan deals, so he is looking for a fresh start in Montreal. In his first game he played the entire 90 minutes and there were some flashes of promise.
Another change and this one definitely falls into the surprising category would be that Patrice Bernier was left out of the starting 11. Coach Schallibaum explained it by saying that Bernier played 90 minutes on Wednesday against Toronto FC. He says it is not a reflection upon Bernier’s play rather it is what is best for the team and Bernier needs the rest. Bernier’s defensive responsibilities would fall upon Davy Arnaud’s shoulders.
With central defender Matteo Ferrari out with a calf strain Dennis Iapichino was making his first start of the season at left fullback. This meant that Hassoun Camara would be moving into a central position. Midfielders Pisanu and Andres Romero were back at their outside midfield positions.
Montreal up until this point has played sparingly. This was going to change with 6 games in 18 days. The game started with the visitors playing a very confident style and Impact keeper Troy Perkins being kept quite busy. Montreal had a very quiet 1st half with fullback Jeb Brovsky having the best scoring chance. In the 29th minute Brovsky had ventured into the Fire box and the ball found its way to him. From about 17 yards out he volleyed a shot just wide of the left post.
It was a fairly open game with Montreal having 63% of possession in the 1st half. Maybe the lack of true chances had something to do with the field not being in great condition. They did lay some new turf this week in the goalie’s area, but on the rest of the field there were not too many true bounces.
In the 54th minute Montreal had to make an unexpected substitution. Nesta, who seemed to reinjure his groin, had to be taken out and rookie Wandrille Lefevre made his first appearance for the Impact and in the MLS. Lefevre is a product of the Impact Academy.
Soon after this substitution Montreal scored the first goal of the game and Lefevre contributed to it. Lefevre played a long ball to Pisanu who found Romero with another long ball. Andres Romero cut into the box from the left side and then moved towards the middle, beat his defender and then got the ball onto his right foot. He then bent the ball into the top left corner of the net behind a helpless Sean Johnson. This was Romero’s 1st goal for the Impact.
If Chicago had any pretentions of getting back into the game they were crushed when midfielder Jeff Larentowicz was given a red card. It was for tripping Pisanu inside the 18 yard box. The foul clearly happened within the box and should have been a penalty kick, but for some inexplicable reason the referee moved the ball back outside the box. Still the Fire had to play the last 27 minutes with only 10 men.
It took them 13 minutes, but Montreal finally was able to take advantage of the Fire being one man down and seal the game with the 4th goal of the season by Marco Di Vaio. Brovsky played a ball to Pisanu, who then sent a ball to Di Vaio inside the box. Di Vaio had his back to the goal when he got the ball then he quickly turned and sent a weak, but precise shot that went in off the post on the far side. Di Vaio is on player who loves Montreal as all his goals have come at home.
Montreal’s next game is Wednesday night at home against Toronto FC in the second game of the semi-finals of the Amway Canadian Championship.
-Referee: Fotis Bazakos
-Goals: 2nd Half:
57th minute: Montreal – Andres Romero assisted by Andrea Pisanu and Wandrille Lefevre
76th minute: Montreal – Marco Di Vaio assisted by Daniele Paponi and Jeb Brovsky
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 6
Chicago – 4
-Corners: Montreal – 4
Chicago – 6
-Man of the Match: Andres Romero
-Final Score: Montreal – 2
Chicago – 0