Home Featured Montreal Impact’s woes continue in Puerto Rico

Montreal Impact’s woes continue in Puerto Rico

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Aaron Pitchkolan
The Montreal Impact traveled to the Caribbean and slugged it out with the Puerto Rico Islanders in a tough-tackling, mean-spirited match. But, two major defensive lapses ensured that the Impact left the island with nothing but a 2-1 loss to show for its effort.

Even though the Impact showed far more emotion than it did in the stunning midweek defeat at Atlanta, the team’s final season in NASL continues a troubling pattern — the Impact can’t beat anyone in the league outside of FC Edmonton.

Montreal has now won just two of its first 10 games, good enough for seventh in an eight-team league. On Tuesday, the club will reveal its major sponsor for its first MLS season, but it will do so licking its wounds.

The referee, who is assigned by the Puerto Rican federation, kept his whistle and cards in his pocket through a series of nasty first-half challenges on a field that looked more dead than alive. Brown was more evident than green as the ball bobbled on the pitch.

But the Impact showed early initiative, choking off time and space from the Islanders’ back four and midfield, forcing the home team to turn the ball over repeatedly.

But, in the 24th minute, all of that early momentum was destroyed when the Impact’s players absolutely blew their defensive assignments on a corner. David Foley’s inswinging kick took one defection, and the bounce fell to Aaron Pitchkolan, who was left absolutely unmarked at the back post. He hammered the left-footed volley home, child’s play considering he had an empty net in front of him and no defender to worry about.

For Impact goalie Bill Gaudette, the man who led the Islanders to upset after upset in the CONCACAF Champions League, the goal marked the beginning of a very ugly homecoming.

The Impact drew level on a controversial goal 11 minutes later. Mignane Diouf barreled down the left side, driving Islander Kevon Villaroel to the ground in the process. The Islanders looked for a foul to be called; but Diouf got to the touch line and squared the ball to the top of the box. Idriss Ech-Chergui miskicked it, but it came off as a great pass, as the ball spun to Amir Lowery, who one-timed the ball past former FC Dallas keeper Ray Burse.

But the lead lasted just two minutes. Villaroel sent a long, high ball into the Montreal penalty area, and Nicholas Addlery redirected it past Gaudette with a powerful header. Again, an Islander was given too much space in the penalty area.

Addlery ran and celebrated in front of the Montreal technical area, a sign of just how much bad blood exists between the two clubs.

Gaudette would have to leave the game before halftime, suffering from an earlier three-way collision with Addlery and Montreal defender Hassoun Camara.

“We tried to get the win throughout the whole game,” said Impact head coach Marc Dos Santos in a release issued after the game. “We played one of our best games of the year in terms of ball circulation and the players fought for each other. We saw tonight the team we want to be. We were stronger, faster and better than against Atlanta. However, we allowed two goals due to a lack of concentration on two set plays.”

In the second half, despite pressing the Islanders for almost the entire 45 minutes, the Impact created only two chances of note: Burse stopped Ech-Chergui’s goal-bound attempt in the 53rd. And, Ech-Chergui’s injury-time overhead kick went just wide of the post.

It’s clear that the Impact is missing the kind of player who can transform the possession and physical dominance into goals. Yes, Ali Gerba is away at the Gold Cup with the Canadian national team. Yes, attacking midfielder Luke Kreamelmayer is out with an injury. But the Impact, right now, is like a big dog without teeth.

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