With their post-season hopes slowly slipping away, the Montreal Impact hosted FC Dallas. After going up three within the hour, many expected Rémi Garde’s men to cruise to the three points. However, the Impact switched off in the dying embers of the game and conceded two late goals, dropping two crucial points.
The Impact now find themselves in seventh place, tied with Orlando City and Toronto FC. This tactical analysis will highlight this tale of two halves and will illustrate where the Impact fell short.
Against FC Dallas, Garde opted for a bog-standard 4-4-2 with new signing Bojan Krkic pairing Maximiliano Urruti up front. In defence, Rudy Camacho slotted in for the departed Zakaria Diallo alongside Jukka Raitala.
Bologna loanees Orji Okwonkwo and Lassi Lappalainen got the nod on the wings in the absence of Ignacio Piatti while Saphir Taider and Ken Krolicki rounded up the midfield.
Luchi Gonzalez, on the other hand, went with the 4-1-4-1 with Bryan Acosta shielding the defence. Just ahead of him, Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira pulled the strings in the midfield.
Veteran partnership of Reto Ziegler and Matt Hedges started at the heart of defence while Dominique Badji acted as the lone striker.
Strength in mobility
For the first time since his arrival, Bojan Krkic started up front alongside Urruti and the pair offered the Montreal faithful a glimpse of what’s to come. In the first half, both strikers were tireless in their movement and rarely remained central as classic number nines. Without a consistent point of reference, Hedges and Ziegler struggled to pick them up. As Bojan dropped deep into midfield and Urruti operated in the channels unselfishly, space opened up for the Impact’s wingers.
Lappalainen and Okwonkwo took advantage of this and often filtered in centrally as the side’s strikers. In fact, for the Impact’s first goal, the Finnish international swapped positions with Bojan and was left unmarked in front of goal. This would be a trend throughout the first half.
Below, you can see that Urruti and Okwonkwo interchanged positions, with the latter making a typical striker’s run into the box. The pass would not find the Nigerian, but this movement allowed him to unmark himself regularly nonetheless.
This tactical wrinkle was also at the heart of the Impact’s second and third goals as Lappalainen and Okwonkwo found themselves centrally.
This was just one of many position swaps in the first half between the Impact’s ever-changing front-line. As Bojan gets more starts alongside Urruti, expect positional fluidity to become a recurring theme at Stade Saputo. If he’s able to stay fit, the Spaniard will become crucial to Garde’s tactics.
Outside of their free-flowing play in the first half, the Impact were able to remain compact defensively. Using two banks of four, Garde mirrored FC Dallas’ setup in the midfield and nullified them early on. With Krolicki and Taider sitting in front of the back four, the Impact resorted to a deep block after getting off to an early lead.
In the absence of their defensive bulldog Samuel Piette, there were question marks over the Impact’s solidity. However, their first half performance quashed those doubts as Garde’s men forced FC Dallas’ attack wide.
Below you can see the Impact’s midfield four maintaining a cohesive line and attempting to force Bryan Reynolds away from their goal. With his primary options blocked off, the FC Dallas winger resorted to a pass to his left back. This was a common theme of the visitors’ first half.
With Badji being marshalled out of play by Raitala and Camacho, FC Dallas were often forced to play it back or sideways. In fact, 115 of their 236 passes in the first half failed to go forward with 50 of them coming in their own defensive third.
A tale of two halves
Gonzalez wasted no time altering his setup and introduced Zdenek Ondrasek for Reynolds at the beginning of the second half. FC Dallas’ 4-1-4-1 quickly shifted into a more offensive 4-2-3-1 with Michael Barrios sliding into the hole. With an out-and-out striker on the pitch, the visitors were able to play more direct and the Impact started losing their shape.
Unlike Badji, Ondrasek is a physical presence and did well to get between the Impact defenders to create space for himself. With the striker occupying Raitala and Camacho, FC Dallas forwards Barriors and Ferreira began finding themselves in dangerous areas.
Below you can see the Czech striker playing off Raitala’s shoulder. After Ryan Hollingshead delivered a pin-point cross, Ondrasek knocked it on, playing Barrios through on goal. While Evan Bush did well to cut down the angle, the Impact’s defence started showing their first signs of vulnerability.
Just over ten minutes after Ondrasek’s substitution, the 30-year-old pounced on a rebound instinctively and reduced the lead to 3-1. This would set the tone for the remaining 30 minutes. With FC Dallas growing in confidence, the Impact dropped deeper and relinquished control in the midfield.
Despite FC Dallas’ sustained possession, the Impact were still dangerous on the break. As a result, Gonzalez instructed Pomykal to play deeper alongside Acosta. When FC Dallas lost possession, the 19-year-old was quick to drop back in a double pivot, offering some much-needed protection to his back four.
As Pomykal moved freely up and down the pitch, FC Dallas began dominating proceedings. Garde would introduce Shamit Shome for Bojan attempting to regain control with a three-man midfield, but at that point, the Impact midfield were in disarray.
With Barrios playing off Ondrasek, FC Dallas experienced their best period of the game and were largely on the front foot creating a number of chances. While Pomykal had since been subbed off, the double pivot remained. The Impact would inevitably crumble and conceded two-late equalizers.
While the Impact are still very much alive in the playoff hunt, this draw is an opportunity squandered. After going 3-0 up at home, the three points should have been a mere formality. This draw means that the Impact are now winless in their last three MLS clashes and have conceded nine goals.
This analysis highlighted the Impact’s inability to close out a game despite positive stretches. With a clash against Toronto FC on the horizon, the Impact will have to rectify their defensive woes immediately. After all, their season depends on it.
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