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!