Marco Di Vaio scores a world class goal in the 20th minute and its 1-0 for the Montreal Impact against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Saturday night.
The Impact are in total control, knocking the ball about at will and after so many heartbreaking losses on the road this season it seemed like this game was going to be different, like Montreal was finally going to win this time.
But the Fire aren’t sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference by accidcent and were never going to bow down so easily. In the 34th minute they equalize and they’re starting to play well, too.
The first half comes to a close at 1-1, but there’s still hope, it’s still there for the taking and the Impact start the second half the way they did the first: maintaining possession and dictating terms.
With the Fire having played mid-week against Toronto and with the Impact coming off a two-week break, it felt like Jesse Marsch’s men we’re going to eventually bag the winner. But it was the home team – against the run of play – that found the go-ahead goal. Alessandro Nesta gets caught moving in the wrong direction for a split second, and it gives Alex just enough time and space to put one past Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
Montreal would push forward with a bit more insistence, but with more spaces to exploit the Fire would find a third goal: a ball cut back across the box and Nesta wasn’t able to close down Alvaro Fernandez, who finished well.
The game finished 3-1 for the Fire and given the Impact’s positive play throughout most of the match, Marsch was understandably frustrated with the result.
“We couldn’t sustain ourselves after they scored. We looked a little tired after that,” Marsch stated. “The first half was a pretty even game, then the game changed following the second goal. It’s frustrating because we know that this was an important match for us and we felt we gave it away a little bit in the second half.”
With only four matches left to play and with five points behind DC United – who also have two games in hand – the loss against the Fire essentially puts the Impact out of the playoff race.
But it’s important to put things into perspective.
The Impact may be out of the playoff race, but they were never supposed to be in the race to begin with. That they were still in contention in September is a feat in itself.
As an expansion team, most pundits expected the Impact to finish last. Montreal sits in seventh in the Eastern Conference, with a substantial 11-point lead over the Philadelphia Union in eighth place.
The most encouraging thing is that the Impact have grown a lot over the course of the season, and a solid base has been put in place that will give the team a very good chance to be immediately successful.
But adjustments to the roster need to be made. If the Impact are going to continue with the 4-2-3-1 formation, making some upgrades in the wide midfield areas should be on the top of the priority list for next season. Getting a reliable central midfielder that can give Patrice Bernier and Collen Warner a break every now and then would be a big help as well.
They won’t have to make any changes in defence: Marsch just has to make better use of the players he has. The fullback position is for fullbacks. Playing centre backs at fullback and leaving your fullbacks – good ones too – on the bench, makes no sense whatsoever. Matteo Ferrari is probably the Impact’s best and most reliable central defender, so why play him at fullback?
Still, as Marsch and the Impact have shown over the course of the season, they eventually get things right.
The team’s definitely on the right track and this is the beginning of the journey, not the end.
Nick Sabetti is a Montreal-based writer who covers the Montreal Impact for Goal.com. Follow Nick on Twitter.