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Three takeaways from the Montreal Impact’s home opener

Apr 13, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Impact midfielder Saphir Taider (8) plays the ball and Columbus Crew midfielder Wil Trapp (6) defends during the second half at Stade Saputo before the game against the Columbus Crew. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

MONTREAL — Back home after six games on the road, the Montreal Impact grabbed all three points in their home opener Saturday afternoon with a 1-0 win over Columbus Crew SC

Facing the Eastern conference leading Columbus Crew, Harry Novillo scored the lone goal to cap a three-game week where the Impact collected five points off of two draw at NYCFC and D.C. United in addition to the win. 

Finding secondary scoring 

It was a fruitful three-game week for the Impact with two draw and a win. However, without their primary source for goals in the injured Ignacio Piatti, the team still struggled to find the back of the net. Since the Argentine got injured in Orlando, the bleu-blanc-noir have only scored twice. 

Secondary scoring has been a head scratcher for the Impact ever since the team joined MLS. The team heavily relied on designated player goal-getters: Marco Di Vaio, Didier Drogba or Piatti. Without them, goals were very often rare and tough to get. 

That being said, option are on the table for the Impact. Saphir Taider stepped up in the latter part of last season from a defensive role and has two goals in 2019. On his side, Harry Novillo opened his account during the team’s home opener.

“We have no control over the fact that Nacho is not here and we have to find other solutions with the players on the field,” said Remi Garde. “It’s the same when DC [United] plays without [Wayne] Rooney or imagine LAFC playing without [Carlos] Vela. This is the reality of MLS, we have to adapt and we wish Nacho will come back soon.”  

Another option will be available very shortly with the Impact announcing the signing of Panamanian Omar Browne on Tuesday. He was spotted in a Stade Saputo box on Saturday. 

Browne most recently played for Club Atletico Independiente in Panama’s first division and scored a pair of goals against Toronto FC in the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16.

Playing the kids

Garde and his coaching staff have not been scared to play their young players recently. Looking to protect a 1-0 lead with a little more than 15 minutes to play, the Frenchman brought on two homegrown players: Mathieu Choiniere and Clement Bayiha. 

Instead of sitting on their lead and suffering attacks from the Crew, the Impact took to the offensive. Both players were involved in attacking plays with Bayiha getting a shot on target.

“I think they did an amazing performance coming into this game. These guys, it felt like they were part of the team for a long time,” said Samuel Piette. “Choniere and Bayiha they give us something different on the pitch, the coach says every time a guy comes in he wants a physical presence and that’s what they did.”

In the Impact’s midweek 0-0 draw with D.C. United, Choiniere, Bayiha and Zachary Brault-Guillard were given their first starts of the season.

“Maybe four or five weeks ago they would’ve been intimidated by the situation or the environment, but they’ve all contributed in both games at a high level,” said goalkeeper Evan Bush. “Some of our best chances came from them just coming off fresh legs and running at the Columbus defense so we’ve got a deep team.”

Stade Saputo’s grass 

Many were fearing that Stade Saputo’s grass surface would not be up to shape earlier this week. An untimely snow storm hit Montreal last Tuesday which forced groundsman Roch Poulin to keep the natural grass surface covered until midweek. 

The grounds crew did what they could, but the surface remained discolored and tricky at times. On two occasions Impact players were affected by the poor conditions of their home pitch: Novillo tripped on the surface and locked up his cleat during a run. On another occasion, Taider missed a free kick as his foot got caught up in the grass, dislodging a large portion of of the pitch. 

Garde mentioned that “the conditions weren’t ideal” and the field was “a little bit like [NYCFC], a field that didn’t favor quick circulation of the ball like we generally enjoy.” 

Garde hoped that “the grass would get greener” for his team’s next game against the Chicago Fire on April 28. 

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