Home Global Game CONCACAF Can the Impact recover to take on congested schedule, Canadian championship?

Can the Impact recover to take on congested schedule, Canadian championship?

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It was a little bit of a surreal experience. Marc Dos Santos, former Montreal Impact coach, was stuck in the Clarke Stadium press box. Now the coach of the Ottawa Fury, he was suspended for the second leg of his team’s Amway Canadian Championship series against FC Edmonton, so he was stuck in the booth next to our broadcast position.

There was still a little less than an hour to go before the kickoff of the Canadian Championship match. In the tiny press box’s tight hallway, I fired up my laptop, perched it on a ledge, and logged into my Sportsnet account so I could watch the second half of the CONCACAF Champions League final. Dos Santos came out and joined me; we hunched over the computer screen and watched Club America’s four-goal second half rampage, as the Mexican giants went on their way to a 4-2 second-leg win. Argentine Dario Benedetto got a hat trick for America, but the story was how the Mexican giants simply exploded in the second half. It was like when you were a kid, and the one player who was so much better than everyone else warns “OK, I am really gonna try, now.”

It felt as if Club America were instructed to play possum through the first leg and the second leg’s first half; for the good of CONCACAF, please keep it close. Then, well, in the final 45, go ahead an illustrate the gulf in talent between a bottom-table MLS side and an elite Liga MX club.

The Impact and MLS did all they could do; surgery was conducted on the Impact’s domestic schedule so the club would have weekends off leading up to and during the CCL final. The Impact had bye weekends, while Club America had no such advantages. While the Impact spent the weekend prepping for the second leg of the final, Club America had a Sunday match against its fiercest rival, Chivas. That gave the Mexican side little time to get to Montreal and get used to the turf.

Didn’t matter.

As Club America started raining down goals, Dos Santos simply said “the stronger team wins.” He pointed to Carlos Darwin Quintero now wearing Club America’s blue road kit. Five years ago, Quintero was the scorer of the two extra-time goals that allowed Santos Laguna to complete a stunning comeback that knocked the then-second-division Impact out of the CCL. Dos Santos said, in a game that counted, he’s never been involved in a game against a more dynamic player. Sure, there have been better players who come over when the big European clubs do their bloated North American summer tours, but in terms of CONCACAF and games that matter against MLS or other Can-Am opposition, Quintero was the best game-changer he’s seen.

Club America’s final 45 showed just how much work leagues in Canada and the United States have left to do.

Ironically, maybe the worst thing to happen to the Impact last night was to score an early goal. The game opened up after Andres Romero scored, and the Impact looked more and more willing to try and trade chances with the opposition than at any other time in its CCL run. Sure, having 61,000 home fans boosts the adrenalin but, from a tactical viewpoint, it meant nothing to America to concede the first goal. The Mexican side, 1-1 after the leg at Azteca Stadium, knew that, to survive, it needed to score. At 1-0 or 1-1, it didn’t matter. America could allow the first goal and continue with the game plan.

But, by opening up, the Impact — who were always going to be under pressure — allowed more space, more gaps, than a team trying to nurse a lead should. And once that first Benedetto volley screamed past Impact keeper Kristian Nicht, the dam was broken.

At the same time, it needs to be said that the Impact’s success in the CCL — including previous triumphs over Mexican and Costa Rican sides — came from a defend-and-counter stance. Basically, the Impact bunkered and hoped for outlets to the speedy Dominic Oduro. And, it’s a tactic a team employs when it knows it’s outgunned. The Impact’s playing style truly emphasized the gap that remains between MLS and Mexico. When the Impact got away from that style, on Wednesday, the curtain was lifted.

That’s not a criticism of the Impact, by the way. Actually, coach Frank Klopas has answered a lot of critics by finding a system that allowed the Impact to have the best chance at success.

But now, Klopas has a doozy of a job ahead of him. With all the added bye weeks, the Impact now has the most congested MLS schedule of all. The Impact’s Canadian Championship quest begins next week. There is no time for the Impact to emotionally recover from the loss; and we’ll see if the agony of defeat gives the Impact the anger needed to win games in the next few weeks, or if the emotional toll will lead to this team being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of games it will need to play.

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2 Comments

  1. cwell

    April 30, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Klopas might have done well to get as far as they did, but I felt that he should have made some substitutions to start the second half. As Craig Forrest commented, and as anyone could see, several Impact players looked tired. They were unable to press, track or provide options for controlling the ball. For example, McInerney should have replaced Oduro before CA scored. Great that Oduro can run fast; useless if he just loses the ball. Rather than CA standing up, I thought Montreal laid down. Why on Earth would they get involved in an end-to-end game when leading 1-0?

  2. Kahkakew Yawassanay

    April 30, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    A tremendous display of skill, speed and finishing by CA…in the end IMFC got what they deserved all along,,,a humiliating defeat after a string of fluke victories where every conceivable break of streak of good luck was bestowed upon them…Club America easily put them away as expected and proved inspite of all the media and supporters hype, egotistically biased reporting from MLS and bloggers’ websites, MLS and IMFC remain many miles behind Mexico’s top clubs…IMFC will really struggle to make the playoffs in MLS again this season….they really are not a quality side and relied heavily on Ciman, Piatti and Bush to make plays over and over which they cannot sustain over a season..MLS clubs know Oduro runs to the corner, boxes himself in and then tracks back, becoming basically impotent, hence why he has been traded so often….their defense and midfield are either slow and old or just slow and are very prone to errors, giveaways resulting in many fouls and cards…Klopas has shown he has had little impact on the Impact to improve their stock and still is considered a very poor hire….in the end, unexpected and surreal CCL runs will not create and support a strong enough following in Mtl for IMFC…but, like all MLS owner/investors, as long as their profit targets are met, who really cares..until Saputo whines again about dwindling attendance and revenues, it is back to futility for IMFC as expected…and for Club America….they will battle for 4th or 5th place as usual for the CONCACAF rep at the FIFA club world cup…Under the SES, MLS will never improve to a point they can challenge for the CCL let alone the World Club championship…and they likely will not challenge in the near or distant future because MLS was designed and is operated for one purpose only..create and increase profits for owner/operators, nothing more, nothing less..it is not about the beautiful game, if it was MLS would have folded the SES, allowed individual team ownership, a realistic salary cap and PA….only in North America does greed and free enterprise hurt the beautiful game, but Saputo is laughing all the way to the bank thanx to huge crowds in the CCL…how long before he sells or is crying around again???

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