On the prowl for their first win of the season, the Montreal Impact found themselves up by two goals with ten to play. That was until last year’s issues came back to haunt them.
After losing to the San Jose Earthquakes in disappointing fashion in week one, the Impact returned home in search of their first three points of the season. With the defending champs rolling into Montreal, the stage was set. Other than opting for Cabrera over Camara at the heart of defence, Biello went with the same eleven that failed to muster a shot on target against San Jose the previous week. This time, however, the Impact came out firing.
It was the perfect start. After dominating possession for the opening fifteen minutes, the Montreal Impact finally found the breakthrough they were looking for. Like he has done so many times in the past Ignacio Piatti slid in an onrushing Matteo Mancosu through on goal. The veteran Italian striker, unfazed by Frei’s presence, rounded the keeper cooly and slotted home with his left foot into the open net. Seventeen minutes in and a goal up, the Impact kept attacking. Before the half came to a close, both sides exchanged half-chances but failed to find the back of the net.
After the break, the Impact picked up where they left off and took the game to the visitors. Within five minutes, their offensive exploits were rewarded when Piatti drove at the heart of Seattle’s defence in possession. With Mancosu overlapping on his left, the Argentine decided to hold onto the ball and fired a powerful shot to Frei’s right from just outside the 18-yard box, evading the goalkeeper’s fingertips. And just like that, the Impact were up by two with forty minutes to play.
In the minutes that followed, the hosts maintained their dominance but failed to add to their lead. To see the result out, Biello brought on new signing Adrian Arregui and Ballou Tabla. Seattle, by contrast, searching for a way back, did the typical striker-for-a-centreback substitution and it paid dividends. With Fisher, Bruin and Morris all on the pitch, the defending champs quickly turned the game around. However, it was only in the 83rd minute that Seattle were handed a lifeline when Laurent Ciman barged into Fisher in the box clumsily. Nicolas Lodeiro made no mistake on the penalty and the Impact’s lead was suddenly cut in half.
As the Sounders poured more men forward, the Impact’s vulnerability from aerial balls began to show. Deep into stoppage time, the Sounders’ sustained pressure finally bore fruits as Will Bruin pounced onto a loose ball to poke home past a helpless Evan Bush. Just like that, the Impact went from getting a convincing win against the champs to blowing a two-goal lead. Piatti, the man of the match on the night, affirms his side’s physical conditioning had nothing to do with how the game played out.
“Physical problem? Absolutely not. Physically, we’re fine. We just committed too many defensive errors.” – Ignacio Piatti.
Once again, the Impact were let down by their inability to close out a game and defend aerial threats. Between Bush’s indecisiveness and the Impact’s lack of height defensively, the playbook on how to beat the Impact is out: Whip in lots of crosses. Until Biello and co. sort it out, this issue will continue to plague them and cost them points in the standings. After the game, the tactician wasn’t pleased with how his side finished the affair.
“It’s as if my team was waiting for the final whistle and that pissed me off.” – Mauro Biello.
As it has been in the past, Biello’s in-game management was questionable tonight. With his side comfortably leading and controlling proceedings, the manager introduced Arregui for his Major League Soccer debut and gave 17-year-old Tabla some important minutes. Both provided fresh legs and ideas but their introductions broke up the Impact’s flow and let Seattle back into the game. In hindsight, Biello will probably have liked to wait another ten, fifteen minutes before making any changes. Moving forward, this is something Biello has to rectify. All in all, however, the manager maintains his side played a good game. “There are more positives than negatives, despite the result,” said Biello. “Blowing a lead like this is difficult but we must learn from these mistakes and manage games better,” added the former Impact player.
With the Impact failing to pick up a win in their two first games, pressure is beginning to build in Montreal. While we’re only two games into the new season, the Impact are set to embark on a difficult three-game road trip against New York City FC, Chicago and LA Galaxy. If they don’t begin addressing their issues, the same issues that have plagued them from last season, the Impact risk starting off the season in the worst possible fashion.