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Three takeaways from the Montreal Impact’s first home loss

Offensive struggles, adapting to playing at home, nagging injuries and more road games on the horizon for Impact

May 4, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York City FC defender Maxime Chanot (4) dribbles the ball as Montreal Impact Impact forward Maximiliano Urruti (37) defends during the second half at Stade Saputo. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact added another loss to the winless drought at home to New York City FC Saturday afternoon. Goals by Maxi Moralez and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi gave NYCFC a 2-0 victory and a 4-0-1 record at Stade Saputo since joining MLS in 2015. 

Here are three thoughts on the loss: 

Impact’s troubles opening up 

After giving up a goal in the first six minutes of play, the Impact had to open up their game and play catchup soccer.

Nevertheless, the Impact were unable to make anything happen on their home field against NYCFC. Montreal weren’t able to put in a single shot on target out of their total eight attempted. For Michael Azira, the loss could be attributed to NYCFC’s play away from home and the amount of time it took his team to adjust to their play.

“Today was a different game. It’s a different team and the style they play, we didn’t put up to it right away and we struggled a lot,” Azira said. “You can see we got outplayed and it’s never good if you don’t adjust right away.”

Head coach Remi Garde had different opinions on the matter. He thought the team hasn’t set in stone a strategy for playing home games yet. Garde believes it might be caused by the eight road games the Impact have already played out of 11 total games. He also didn’t forget to point out that his team have been playing the last eight games without Ignacio Piatti.

“Maybe because we’ve missed our best player for a long time now. We don’t have to forget that, it’s difficult,” Garde said. “Also because we haven’t played a lot of games at home — it was our third one — but we had a strategy to play a road game and now we are at home. But I have the feeling that we could have deserved one or two goals in this game.”

Despite the single shot on target statistic looming over his head, Garde remained positive about his offensive corps. Garde mentioned that he liked what Saphir Taider and Orji Okwonkwo brought to the table on Saturday afternoon. Add to that Omar Browne’s impressive climb up the Impact’s depth chart on the right wing. 

“It’s not like we didn’t create nothing or like we have been overflowed by the opposition,” Garde said. “It’s a good team, they played good football, but once again I’m not so disappointed about the way my players fight on the field. They tried to do everything to find at least a goal and to come back.”

“For me, when you have this attitude you can say: ‘Well okay we’re going to try and recover and we’re ready for the next one,'” he added. 

Minor injury epidemic rages on

The Impact have had recurring issues with minor injuries and it is reflecting now more than ever. Bacary Sagna, Mathieu Choiniere and Clement Bayiha weren’t featuring in Saturday’s game due to minor injuries. 

Two of the player Garde highlighted at the end of Saturday’s game, Orji Okwonkwo and Saphir Taider, also had issues of their own. Okwonkwo was substituted off with an apparent hamstring injury while Garde confessed that Taider was playing with a minor injury.

After last Thursday’s practice, Garde mentioned three factors for his team’s physical issues. Traveling, Montreal’s changing temperatures and the playing surfaces at both Stade Saputo and Centre Nutrilait — the Impact’s training ground — were the causes for concern. 

The Impact’s medical crew will need to work overtime as the team heads over to a true road trip starting Tuesday. The team will leave for New Jersey where they will take on the New York Red Bulls Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. The Impact will then immediately leave for Ohio where they will take on FC Cincinnati on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. After Saturday’s game, Garde echoed his concern over how fit his players will be for the latter half of that three-game week. 

“We are again on the road with two games,” Garde said. “I only hope that we have players that are fit to play because as you know we have quite a lot of players that suffer from minor injuries. This is my main concern until the next game.” 

Jackson-Hamel and Urruti up top for the first time

For the first time, the Impact had both their strikers play up top. Garde gave Anthony Jackson-Hamel atop the 4-3-3 formation, but subbed in Maxi Urruti at the 57th minute and switched the formation into a 4-4-2.

Despite the poor result, the Impact showed a different face offensively. Garde was used to sending out his 4-3-3 formation because of the lack of offensive options but saw an opportunity to switch things up to try and get back into the game. 

“Jackson doesn’t have the same characteristics that Maxi has” Garde said. “Maxi wears down defenders physically and physiologically but Jackson did a good job regarding that, I find. I wished that we could have found him more behind the defense, but we weren’t able to do so.”

With Browne’s arrival, the Impact may want to experiment with their offensive corps. The left-footed Panamanian mainly plays on the right but has experience playing in a more central, attacking midfielder role. This could open the door for Garde to play both Urruti and Jackson-Hamel up top in a diamond formation.

The Impact could also take advantage of the difference between both strikers. Urruti’s physical efforts and defensive work could compliment with Jackson-Hamel’s target man abilities in a more conventional 4-4-2 formation.

The Impact’s main concern regarding playing both strikers simultaneously is the lack of a third in the depth chart. If they decide to, the Impact have until May 7 to add to their squad before the secondary transfer window re-opens on July 7. 

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