Welcome to Hudson River Blue’s weekly opponent scouting report. We’ll use this column to preview our upcoming opponents and provide some insight into what to expect.
Last Time We Played
Montreal and New York will meet for the first time in the 2016 season when the two face off this Wednesday. You have to go all the way back to August 1st of 2015 to find the last time the two teams played. Prior to that game, New York had Montreal’s number, winning twice, home and away, in dominating fashion. However, in the final meeting of the teams, which was in Montreal, the Impact came away with a 3-2 victory.
The club got off to a good start, scoring twice in the first half through Dominic Oduro and Ignacio "Nacho" Piatti. David Villa got NYC FC back into the game with a 64th minute goal from the spot, but Montreal was awarded a PK shortly after which Piatti converted for his second. Tommy McNamara made the game interesting late, but ultimately Montreal came away with the win.
What’s Happened Since Then?
Montreal ended the season red hot despite their heavy schedule which saw the club playing 11 games in only 51 days. In those 11 games, Montreal went 7-2-2, taking 23 points of a possible 33. The points haul got the team into the Playoffs as the third seed in the Eastern Conference, where they took care of Toronto FC in the Knockout stage 3-0. Impact had Columbus Crew SC on the ropes up 2-1 in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but ultimately lost on aggregate 3-2.
In the offseason, Montreal kept its team together as best as possible, only notably parting ways with dynamic wingers Justin Mapp and Dilly Duka, in addition to defender Eric Miller and EPL veteran Nigel Reo-Coker. The team made a surprise move to acquire Harry Shipp, who has started every game for the team out wide and has made a positive impact (sorry) so far. The team also added Lucas Ontivero and drafted Kyle Miller.
So far, 2016 is treating Impact well. The team finds itself on 12 points, tied for first in a congested Eastern Conference with a record of 4-0-3. The team has been Jekyll and Hyde, at times winning with conviction, other times losing inexplicably to its opponents. They have two clean sheets to their name thus far, but have been shutout in all of their three losses.
How They Play
Montreal is a talented offensive team led by Didier Drogba and Nacho Piatti that has a capable backline anchored by emerging defender Victor Cabrera. At the top, Piatti pulls the strings, combining excellent touch with a goalscorer’s mentality. So far, the Argentine forward has scored four goals and added two assists. Nacho is now sharing star duties full time with Didier Drogba, who started his first game last week and has made three appearances for the club, scoring once.
Defensively, the team relies on the aforementioned loanee Victor Cabrera and Laurent Ciman to organize the back and keep a strong line. Per American Soccer Analysis, Montreal is the second best team in MLS in terms of expected goals allowed, a stat which measures beyond conceded goals to uncover the implied effectiveness of a defensive unit.
The club put it all together last season in the stretch run and seems to be showing flashes of what it can do already this season.
Player to Watch
I don’t think I need to explain to you the importance, quality, and star power of one Didier Drogba, so instead we’ll focus on Nacho Piatti. Piatti, who hails from Argentina, became Montreal’s third designated player ever when he came over from San Lorenzo in July of 2014 at the age of 29. After netting four goals in six matchs in 2014, Nacho exploded onto the MLS scene last season, scoring nine goals and adding eight assists in 26 matches.
Piatti is dynamic and extremely dangerous on the counter attack. He plays far up the field but generally behind a central striker. Nacho has the technical ability to take players on one v one, but also the touch to score around the goal. He is a handful for any backline, and New York will have to keep tabs on him all match.
Montreal Impact Fun Facts
- Montreal Impact is the 19th MLS franchise
- The Club began playing in 2012
- Marco Di Vaio is the club’s all-time leading scorer with 40 goals in 89 appearances
- Montreal is an island (weird, right?)
- Mount Royal Soccer is SB Nation’s Impact blog and is, in fact, a mountain in Montreal
NYC FC is a hot mess right now, and the club and its manager, Patrick Vieira, are trying everything to right the ship. The team has not been inspiring at home either, but is desperately in need of a performance to kickstart its season back into gear. My prediction is that the club will play better, but likely not well enough to win. I see a 1-1 in our future, with Mix netting one for New York and Piatti getting on the scoresheet for Montreal.
Let’s see what the rest of Hudson River Blue had to say:
Raf Noboa y Rivera: 2-1 Montreal. The team is in a funk. Nacho Piatti is the kind of playmaker who makes things happen. Droba scores. That said, I’d love a win.
Calvin Daniel: 2-1 NYCFC. Villa brace because he only scores in doubles this season.
Sam Dunn: A merciful 1-1 draw. Drogba side-footer, accidental Fred Brillant header.
There you have it, we can’t decide how the team will fair tomorrow. Help us figure out what to make of the match below in our comments section.