Montreal Impact Plan Course to Success After Dreadful Finish to the Season

Montreal ImpactThe Montreal Impact have been the epitome of two very different teams this season. Early in the year, Montreal focused primarily on counter-attacking. They took advantage of the pressure on other MLS teams searching for identity and consistency. When teams attacked, they soaked up the pressure, and countered through the likes of Patrice Bernier and Davy Arnaud. Arnaud in particular was to take the plaudits in the opening weeks of the season. In order for counter attacking football to work, you need a lethal finisher. The Impact were able to boast the striker of the season, Marco Di Vaio, whose predatory instinct to time his runs left teams stung.

By the halfway point, Montreal sat atop of the standings. After 17 games, the Impact had an impressive 9-4-4 record, and a points total of 31. Unfortunately, this was as good as it was to get for Montreal. New coach Schallibaum had added chemistry and cohesion to a talented Montreal side, but destroyed it as quickly as he built it up. Too often, Montreal would concede and become a different side. Looking lost, they’d often rush and panic pass the ball around midfield, before blasting a ball over the top for Di Vaio to chase. It is of little surprise that Di Vaio only increased his number of offsides as the season went on.

Schallibaum also caused issues with other players. Players such as Matteo Ferrari were so overplayed it became painful to watch them play another game. While it is of no use to the player, it is understandable why Schallibaum stuck with Ferrari; he was usually excellent for the Impact. However, his inclusion of players such as Pisanu was bizarre, for he was consistently poor yet had been rewarded with 14 starts.

These decisions led the Impact’s fine start to the season be ruined by their final eight game streak. They won none of these games, lost seven and won one. Three points out a possible twenty four is not the form of a playoff team. The Impact will look back at their season start as the only reason they snuck into the playoffs, relying on other teams. But if you listen to Bernier, the season wasn’t a write off. The Impact achieved their primary goal:

“The objective was to get into the playoffs. It’s a second season and as in all sports, you have another chance. If I remember correctly, last year’s finalists finished 4th and 5th so everything is possible.”

Marco Di VaioBernier was entirely correct, the regular season ended and the Impact succeeded. However, the poor second half of the season was to haunt the team. With little time to fix all the issues Montreal had accumulated, the playoffs were to continue in the same vein that their end of season had.

The Houston Dynamo were hardly all smiles, having their fair share of struggles throughout the season as well. In the first playoff game, the Dynamo played one of their easiest matches of the season. Montreal’s predictable Di Vaio dependency was negated by Houston’s intelligent back-line. With Di Vaio cutting a frustrated and isolated figure, Houston began to harry and pressure Montreal. They scored a goal of great quality, after a Ricardo Clark flick played Bruin in for a classy finish. Once again, Montreal’s mentality showed. They collapsed and allowed another two goals to be conceded. Furthermore, they decided to get three players sent off, one of which was the isolated Di Vaio.

The night was as about as embarrassing a night as the Canadian club could have created. Over the last few days, rumors have circulated that the retiring Nesta is to take over from Schallibaum. Essentially, Schallibaum could have no complaints. He handled the pre-season and early season expertly, but managed to destroy his own hard work with bizarre tactics due to a lack of rotation and trust in other players. He should however be cut some slack over the front office’s transfer business. The lack of support and secondary striker caused the dependency on Di Vaio. Also, the need to play the far too-aggressive Rivas in such a big game further illustrated the lack of depth that Montreal had all season.

Whether Schallibaum gets the chance or not, there is a core to a very good team in Montreal. They showed their effectiveness using an Italian-style counter attacking football. With further depth and management consistency, there’s no reason Montreal can’t improve next season.

Written by Tom Errington

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Semifinal Thriller: US Scores Winning Goal on 123′

The US have advanced to the Women’s Olympic Football finals after a hard-fought semifinal game against Canada at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester. They were able to prevent a penalty shootout after making it 4-3 when scoring 3 minutes into stoppage time following the end of extra time. Click here to see the highlights.

Canada wanted to have an early lead because they knew a US goal would eventually come. On the 22nd minute, Sinclair was the one to give them that first lead. As Tancredi received the ball, she found her teammate inside the box and knocked it to her. She dribbled the ball forward, eluded multiple defenders, and put it away in the bottom-left corner past Hope Solo. Canada’s lead almost doubled just minutes later, but a save was made following Schmidt’s header. The US had a chance a bit later in the 1st half, when a cross was made to Wambach that ended in a strong but off-target header. Neither team had many astonishing chances, but the 3 time Olympic champions were still left trailing at 1-0 at by the end of the first half.

The second half proved to be much more dynamic than the first, with a total of 5 goals scored. On the 53rd minute, the US was able to equalize the score at 1-1 after what was probably the goal of the tournament. Rapinoe caused a lot of confusion among the Canadians when she bent her corner kick past the defenders and into left-hand side of the goal. It would have been very hard for Canada to stop that ball for getting in the net since the spin was very unpredictable. Their brief tie was broken by the Canadians about 15 minutes later, when Sinclair and Tancredi were able to set up yet another goal. Tancredi once again crossed to Siniclair, who scored a header into the bottom-left corner, just skimming the post. This goal was the first of a series of multiple goals that occurred within 12 minutes. After providing cross after cross for the US, Rapinoe decided to take a chance and shoot from fairly far away. The shot hit the left post and rebounded straight into the goal, equalizing the score at 2-2. Canada’s fire did not die though, and they were able lead for the third and final time just 2 minutes later. Sinclair received the corner and beat Solo with yet another header; this was her third goal of the match. Just 10 minutes before full time, the referee caught a hand ball in Canada’s penalty box after a free kick for the US, resulting in a penalty shot. Wambach, who scored in every game in the tournament so far, successfully converted the penalty. Wambach had a good chance to finish it off in the end, but her shot was just wide, so the second half ended with the scores level at 3-3.

During extra time, not many shots were fired at the net. The few shots that were on target did not result in a goal. In the 118th minute, another shot was made from Wambach, this time a header, which bounced off the crossbar. As the game entered its final minute of stoppage time, it seemed as though it would have to be decided by a penalty shootout. Just 30 seconds before extra time came to an end, Morgan was able to head the ball right over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The sound of people chanting USA, USA filled up the stadium, and the game ended with a score of 4-3.

This game was definitely one of the strangest and craziest games that have ever been played in soccer. There was a 20-yard goal, a hat trick, and an Olimpico. Also, the winning team was trailing 3 times during the game, and the final, match-deciding goal was scored in the 123rd minute. Despite all of that, the referee, Christina Pedersen, made calls that would have only made sense at a U-13 level. She guessed nearly all of her calls, denied the US of multiple penalty kicks, and held off on giving Canada a yellow card even though they committed many fouls. She also made the six-second call (a goalkeeper can’t hold the ball for more than 6 seconds), which no professional referee ever pays attention to.

The semifinal game between Japan and France took place a few hours before this one. The game ended in a 2-1 win for Japan, with goals from Ogimi and Sakaguchi of Japan, and Le Sommer of France. The US will take on Japan in the Women’s Olympic Football final on August 9th at 19:45 London time.

Written by FutbolPulse