When you are playing what has been deemed as the most important game of the year and you don’t even show up on the same day that rumours are flying around that the head coach (Mauro Biello) is going to be fired to be replaced by former Impact and Italian national team player, Alessandro Nesta is speaks loudly to the state of the team. Meaning for all those looking it seems like this team is no longer listening to its coach.
I really want to come out on the side of the coach as I do not believe in players ever not giving full effort, but he made it quite hard last night. The Montreal Impact, who have honestly gone through a tough season, found themselves in 7th place 3 points out of the last playoff spot in the East going into a game against NYCFC. This was chalked by almost everyone as a must win game for the bleu-blanc-noir. Nothing that happened in the 90 plus minutes on the pitch at Saputo Stadium demonstrated that the players realized that. Frustrating!
What made me scratch my head from the get go was Biello’s starting line-up and formation. With four games left in the schedule (including the one they were playing this evening) he was still tinkering with formation. Last night for some reason he went with a 3-5-2. Now I am not a coach in the MLS or anything, but why change things at this point. In all honesty I should not have been that surprised as he has been playing around with the formation all season trying to find one that would work. Well, if last night’s game was any indication, the 3-5-2 does not suit this team as it is comprised. And that is the key here – “as it is comprised”. As a coach you have to play the system that suits your players not one that you want to play. Then there was the players he chose as his starting 11. No Samuel Piette. Hassoun Camara in Chris Duvall’s place. Placing a young player like Kyle Fisher, who has been out for a stretch with a foot injury, in a completely different position. Talk about setting someone up for failure. Putting your best player, Ignacio Piatti, in a more forward position when he has shown that he plays his best soccer in a wide midfield position. Starting Shaun Francis when he has played precious few minutes this season. Playing Hernan Bernadello. The guy has done nothing all season. Everything is perplexing. Then when the team went down a goal, Biello’s response was to bring on Andres Romero, a guy who is just a shadow of himself since a serious knee injury a couple of seasons ago? Sigh…
Still, no matter who is on the field, it is up to the players to play. And in this case play with a sense of urgency. At no point in the game did it feel like these guys really wanted to do whatever it took to win. There was disjointed play. Players trying to take on 2-3 New York players on their own and inevitably losing the ball. The only other option they seemed to choose going forward was low percentage long balls, which never worked. It was hard to watch.
Wingbacks Francis and Camara added little to their squad. Neither was able to add width and stretch NYCFC out making room for players in the middle. Dzemaili and Piatti were both guilty of trying to do too much on their own and losing the ball frequently. Bernadello and Marco Donadel were not able to efficiently start play back up the field. Bush was guilty of bad ball distribution at several points. Fisher showed his rust (or playing out of position) by not being confident on the ball and giving it away cheaply several times. The only pluses were several stops by Bush, the steady play of centreback Laurent Ciman and the hustle of Matteo Mancosu when he came on in the 2nd half.
Once NYCFC, which did not start Andrea Pirlo, David Villa or Yangel Herrera, scored in the 29th minute via a Jack Harrison left footed howitzer that found the top left hand part of the net behind Evan Bush, you never felt a serious push back from the home side. They rarely controlled the play with NYCFC enjoyed a 60%-40% possession advantage. If not for several good saves by Bush and substitute Villa hitting the crossbar late in the game the score could have been more one sided. Fewer clear cut scoring chances than I have fingers on my hand were created with Blerim Dzemaili and substitute Mancosu having the best of the half chances enjoyed by Montreal.
The score was the only thing that was close in this game. It did not feel like a 1-0 match with NYCFC dominating in every area. They controlled the ball and the tempo of the game. Just the shots (NYCFC – 22, Montreal – 10) directed to goal shows a clearer picture. Montreal has not been able to make their home pitch Fortress Saputo this season stumbling to a 8-7-2 record. If there is one reason they will not make the playoffs it is the points they have dropped at home.
Everything cannot be blamed on Biello. As I said, players have to play no matter what formation or who is the coach. They are professionals paid to do that. Plus Biello has had his hands tied all season long in regards to quality. The Impact have the third lowest payroll in the MLS. For instance, the difference between Montreal (almost $5 million) and Toronto (just over $20 million) is $15 million dollars which is astounding. This results in not only higher quality players, but a larger team depth. Biello cannot be blamed for this. Maybe instead of Joey Saputo paying Alessandro Nesta a bunch of money to coach the squad (which I’m sure he will ask for) he should invest that money in player salary. Just an idea.
Montreal now finds themselves 4 points out of the final playoff position behind the New York Red Bulls, who have a game in hand. Things look dire. with only three games remaining the chances of making the playoffs are very slim. Here’s to hoping that the players give an honest effort each game no matter what. Montreal’s next game is on the road Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.
- Referee: Hilario Grajeda
- Assistant Referees: Nick Uranga, Daniel Belleau
-Goals: 1st Half:
29th minute: NYCFC – Jack Harrison assisted by Rodney Wallace
-Shots on Net: Montreal – 3
NYCFC – 6
-Corners: Montreal – 4
NYCFC – 9
-Man of the Match: Evan Bush
-Final Score: Montreal – 0
NYCFC – 1