For the second time in two weeks the Montreal Impact dropped points from a winning position, condemning them to their sixth defeat in eight games. Despite the poor defensive outing, it’s the Impact’s play in the final third that will force Rémi Garde back to the drawing board.
Going up against Atlanta United’s high-power offence away from home was never going to be easy for the Montreal Impact. After leading 1-0 for 70 minutes thanks to a Saphir Taïder header, the Impact – much like it was the case against Los Angeles FC the week before – conceded four unanswered goals to lose. While Atlanta’s pressure and constant peppering of Montreal’s goal inevitably paid off in a big way, the 4-1 scoreline did not do the Impact’s performance full justice.
With Camacho coming in for the injured Fanni, Montreal looked solid at the back and did well to negate Miguel Almiron and co. for most part of the game. However, the Impact’s resolve was only able to hold up until about the 70 minute mark, when Chris Duvall’s hand ball lead to a penalty and opened the door for the hosts. From that point on, the league leaders kicked into another gear and would find the back of the net another three times.
Despite conceding another four goals, Garde will be pleased with how compact his side were for three quarters of the game and will look to build on that in the coming weeks. Since joining Major League Soccer, Atlanta United have made light work of most defences and are currently the league’s highest-scoring outfit. Playing freely under Gerardo Martino, Atlanta’s up and coming South American talents – namely Almiron, Villalba and Martinez – have flourished and have established a lethal partnership in the final third. On Saturday, Montreal did a decent job containing them in open play – yet, once again, their disciplinary issues let them down.
Having conceded three of their four goals from set-pieces, a lot of the Impact’s defensive issues in this game stemmed from momentary lapses in concentration. Too often this season, Montreal dropped points due to a lack of focus in crucial moments and today against Atlanta it was much of the same. In the upcoming games, Garde will look to eradicate such lapses as the Impact have been generally solid in open play. Goalkeeper Evan Bush was pretty adamant his side defended well, as per the club’s official website.
“I don’t think the scoreline is indicative of the effort we put in,” said Bush.
What should be more concerning for Garde – by contrast – is the Impact’s continued struggles in the final third. Devoid of any real ideas moving forward, the Impact sit deep and look to hit the opposition on the counter. In theory – considering Montreal’s roster – it’s an effective tactic. In practice, however, it leaves Garde’s side toothless in attack and they have issues creating chances as most of their men are sitting back. Moving forward, the French tactician will have to better utilize Piatti, Vargas and Silva and play a formation that caters more to their diverse skill-set.
The Impact’s talisman – Nacho Piatti, a natural left winger – for example, has been playing as a lone striker in recent games. While the intention to rid him of defensive responsibilities and get him closer to goal is a good one, he is far too isolated playing as the side’s target man. When he is on the left wing, Piatti has far more time on the ball and has more freedom to drift in and out of dangerous areas. Opposing defences are often left without a reference point and are unable to mark him effectively, as a result. With the Impact needing results in the near future, it may be time to end this experiment and return Piatti to his natural position.
With games coming up against Eastern Conference rivals in the next three affairs, the Impact are going to need to start making up some ground on the playoff spots and begin picking up points. Currently lingering near the bottom of the Eastern Conference in ninth place, it’s time for Garde to settle on his best eleven. After all, the Impact’s season depends on it.