Close, but no cigar.
We saw a better performance by the Montreal Impact tonight, especially in the midfield, but an old foe has come back to sink the Home-Opener's ship; extra time. With already over 3 minutes played after the first 90, the Seattle Sounders and their new veteran acquisition, Will Bruin made Montreal pay for their lack of killer instinct earlier in the game.
It all started beautifully though for the Bleu-Blanc-Noir, better possession and passing accuracy in the midfield, early looks on goal, great use of the flanks by Oyongo, Piatti and Oduro. Montreal even took a two goal lead, but it proved insufficient for the 1642ers. A beautiful through ball to Mancosu by Piatti, setup perfectly by the captain Patrice Bernier to open up the 2017 goal tally and a great finish by Piatti for the second. What was really impressive on Piatti's goal was his dismantling of Torres' coverage. Being caught ball watching and not focusing on Piatti's hips, Torres was left flat footed and couldn't cover Piatti's strong foot; 2-nil the Impact.
But, has it has been the case far too often over the last few years, the defense could not hold on. A questionable penalty call on a Ciman tackle and a moment of panic in the box late in extra time were enough for the Sounders to leave Montreal in a hurry with a stolen point. Like Mauro Biello mentioned in his post-game press conference, there were several questionable decisions on both sides by the referee Jair Marrufo. Early yellow cards, misplaced free kicks, questionable no-calls and a controversial tying goal scored after the initial 3 minutes of extra time are all issues that should be looked at carefully by PRO (Professional Referee Organization) and its general manager, Peter Walton.
On the positive side for Montreal, big improvements were made when we compare to last week's performance in Northern California. The passing accuracy went from a mediocre below 70% last week, to a very respectable 79.3% tonight and especially accurate in the defensive midfield (Bernier 84.6% Donadel 91.1% Bernardello 93.6%) . The confusion in the midfield has been addressed, Bernier-Bernardello-Donadel knew exactly where to be and how to execute the game plan this time around. The captain had a great home opener, 2 assists and a multitude of chances created by using the flank players to move up on the pitch. Oyongo and Oduro were instrumental in Montreal's attack, being able to use the space left open in front of them to generate space and time for Piatti to be effective offensively.
According to Evan Bush, the fitness aspect of the game, especially late in the game was the difference between a win and a draw. On top of the fitness, the substitution of Patrice Bernier for a debuting Adrian Arregui at the 59 minute mark spelled the end of domination for Montreal and especially the end of ball possession on the night. Coincidence? I think not.
Overall, 2 goal scored, a good performance by the core and star players and a more stable and reliable midfield are good improvements from game 1.
Some doubts concerning the backline still remains, unfortunately, and more discipline is needed by the Montreal defense if they want to have success in 2017.
Until next time, have a great soccer!
You can follow Kevin Laramee on Twitter @KevLaramee
You can listen to all of Kevin's thoughts on the game, player interviews and coaches post-game comments on the latest Off the Woodworkx every Sunday morning!
As most know, the Vancouver Whitecaps became the third Canadian team to reach the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals after their two leg win over the Red Bulls last month. In doing so they added to Canada's argument to be seeded in the new format, which starts later this year. With 16 teams in the knock-out phase it's hard to argue against Canada being placed in the top eight, actually. Gaining more spots is another story. Let's wait until the Canadian Premier League is involved before opening that can of worms.
At any rate, if the Whitecaps are to become the second hoser squad to make a final they have their work cut out for them. They have drawn Liga MX power Tigres -- they of three Mexica titles since 2011 and fresh off a CCL finals appearance. In the requisite YouTube hype video released today the Caps have called the match-up David v Goliath. That might be doing a disservice to Goliath.
Speaking of the hype video:
I'll leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide whether a team that claims it plays in #SoccerCityCanada (which by virtue of that claim means that they think the city you live in isn't) is deserving of #Canada4Caps. No one should feel an obligation to cheer for a club team just because they play in the same country as you, even if there are only five fully professional teams in your country. I doubt many Caps fans were cheering for TF...actually they might have been because, well. Seattle. That was a bad day for them, wasn't it?.
If you do watch that video you'll note that it appears that the Caps are now fully boarding the Alphonso Davies hype train. Not gonna lie, the idea of seeing Davies line up against a top Mexican side is very appealing.
Unless he decides to represent Liberia.
I'm sure it will be fine.
Every Friday, I will give my keys to victory for the Montreal Impact, in 3 points!
Point 1 The Cohesion in the Midfield
Montreal had all sorts of trouble in the midfield last week. Congestion, led to confusion that led to loss of possession, this really was noticeable when Montreal was trying to transition the ball forward. Smaller, higher pourcentages passes are key for the Impact to generate quality opportunity to feed their best attacking options, Piatti and Mancosu, which were left on an island last week.
Point 2 Oyongo and Piatti
The combination of Ambroise Oyongo and Nacho Piatti on the left side of the field for the Bleu-Blanc-Noir can be deadly. When Oyongo is able to use the space in front of him with the ball at his feet, he creates time and space for Piatti to be an offensive threat or even a goal scoring chance for himself. This is imperative for Montreal to get by the defending MLS Cup Champions.
Point 3 Beware of Clint Dempsey
Clint is back, healthy and HUNGRY! Even though they lost their season opener, Clint has found the back of the net already this season and in his favorite fashion, poacher style. For the Montreal Impact to emerge victorious Saturday night at the Stade Olympique, they will have to be mindful of Dempsey's presence close to goal AT ALL TIMES AND FOR 90 MINUTES!
You can follow Kevin Laramee on twitter @KevLaramee
Off the Woodworkx, a podcast about the Montreal Impact available here https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/off-woodworkx-sports-podcasting/id1067439813?mt=2
Philadelphia Union (0-0-1) v TFC (0-0-1), Match Day 2
TSN 4 – 4:30pm, Saturday
CSN Away Viewing is upstairs at Pauper’s Pub (Bathurst and Bloor). Check the usual suspects (Wheat Sheaf, Shoeless Joe’s, etc.) for others or add your viewing in the comments.
Last meeting: TFC won its first ever playoff game in rather convincing fashion to launch a magical run that lasted through to the end of November. I’m not sure what happened in December.
Most famous game: In what was possibly Aron Winter’s darkest moment the exceptionally average Union put six – yes, SIX – goals by the Worst Team in the World to win 6-2 in front of a grumpy BMO Field back in 2012.
Key Union player: Let’s go with Super Keeper Andre Blake, who is arguably the best shot stopper in all of MLS. Thankfully, TFC has not been robbed blind by a keeper standing on his head in almost three months.
Former Red alert: With the man responsible for BMO Field’s lack of plastic, Mo Edu, still recovering from his broken leg the former Reds alert is Warren Creavalle. The utility player most famous in Toronto for the drunk guy two rows back of you insisting he’d be a better option at right-back has actually found some half-decent form for the Union.
Key TFC player: Gotta be Seba, no? After yet another week of MLS’ tried and true defensive strategy of hack-a-little-Italian, the Atomic Ant will be looking to open his account in style this weekend.
Home advantage: Meh. Unless you’re trying to park your car after sunset there isn’t much intimating about Chester’s best soccer stadium. The weather on game day is going to be positively Canadian -- -4C expected at kick-off. No orange ball likely though.
What opposing fans are saying: REVENGE!!!!1!!!!1! They are also mostly calling for a tight game and possibly a draw. Yippee.
TFC panic level (as expressed by the name of a former player): Danny Koevermans (He’s really good, but we’re scared it’s all going to go wrong at any moment)
Our view: It says here that TFC gets its first three points of the year and Seba opens his account with a brace. 3-0 Reds.
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Talk about burying the lead.
Toronto FC fans got a surprise yesterday and not one that they would have been looking forward to. That Champions League spot that many were looking forward to is not just delayed until next February -- it's been taken away completely. The news was almost hidden in a release announcing the extension of the Canadian Championship to include the winner of the PLSQ and League1 Ontario.
So, to re-cap, the CSA got one thing right and one thing very wrong.
Let's start with the wrong. Appreciating the fact that a lot of people in this country love it when Toronto gets screwed, there is no denying that they did, in fact, get screwed here. Yes, there was a bit of an issue to fix -- CONCACAF's change in format made it a long wait for the qualifying team -- but the CSA chose quite possibly the least sporting solution available to them. TFC won the Voyageurs Cup on the field and the CONCACAF spot that went with it should have stayed with them. A year where the Cup did not have a CCL spot would not have been the end of the world. In fact, it may have given more opportunity to young Canadians to play in the competition as the teams would have very likely rotated (as an aside, the CSA also added a Canadian quota for starters this year -- each team will need to start three Canucks each game.
The CSA did provide a slight advantage by allowing TFC to host the one game playoff. Obviously, if TFC wins the 2017 Voyageurs Cup they do not need to play itself for the berth.
Unfair or not, it's done now and the Reds will need to get down to the business of repeating as champions if the CCL is to make a long awaited return to T.O.
For the D3 level teams the long wait to get a shot at the Canadian Championship is almost over. The specific format of the 2018 Cup has not been released yet (hopefully because they are waiting to add a few more teams in a, say, new league...), but whatever it is it will include at least two D3 teams. It won't include the Canadian PDL teams. The likely reason? The CSA wants those teams to play in Canadian leagues and this might be the incentive to get them to make that choice on their own.
In the words of the great modern poet that is Demi Lovato:
So how did you get here under my skin?
I swore that I'd never let you back in
Should've known better than trying to let you go
'Cause here we go go go go again
After nearly a year of...let's call it re-charging...CSN is back with a slightly new mandate and hopefully a revitalized zest for writing about the always frustrating but rarely dull world of Canadian soccer. We would have been back sooner, but we had a lot of work to accomplish first. Most importantly, we needed to change the look of the site and to get rid of a truly staggering amount of spam that had overwhelmed us and that played a significant role in creating the burn-out that necessitated that above mentioned re-charging.
The comments section, once the best check of my ego I could have ever hoped for, but yet an important part of making CSN a community rather than just a news site, became the bane of my existence. Unless you were in the market for Russian pharmaceuticals there was no point checking the comments. Without the understanding that people are reading it becomes difficult to motivate yourself to take time out of your schedule to do that hard work of writing -- especially when you spend a lot of time commenting in audio form as the host of SoccerToday.
Speaking personally, the burn out was also just a product of doing it for so long. You feel that you are repeating yourself after a while. But, eventually you start to miss it and you start to feel that you need to get your voice back out there in a consistent way.
A lot remains the same about Canadian soccer, but a lot has changed as well. Part of CSN's (slightly) new mandate will be to address those changes -- specifically the Canadian Premier League project that is (frustratingly still) on the horizon. Additionally, D3 level leagues like League1 Ontario, the PLSQ and the new BC initiative are becoming more and more important in the system and reporting on them will become a big focus of CSN 2.0.
That's not to say we won't still talk about MLS and the three Canadian teams. There was a time when I felt that maybe we should step away from that kind of coverage (and I still think we should focus a bit less on it compared to the topics outlined above), but when nearly 100,000 people attend the Eastern Conference Final in Canada and a million more watch it on TV it's hard to say that it shouldn't be covered.
So, it will be. As will the national teams and issues that impact Canadian soccer at all levels, regardless of where it originates from.
It's going to be a lot of work. But, it's work I'm excited to get back to after a little time away.
In the words of retired Canadian soccer poet Ben Knight...