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Know Your Enemy: Montreal Impact - Meeting the First, Part Two – Game Film Review and Points of Interest

The second half of the latest installment of the Know Your Enemy series, previewing TFC's upcoming opponent, the Montreal Impact, reviewing the game film for strengths and weaknesses.

The Impact may be struggling, but they have plenty of talent
The Impact may be struggling, but they have plenty of talent
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Part One was posted yesterday, going over Montreal’s lineup and form

The Tactics

Starting at the top, Montreal have a very dangerous pair of strikers in Marco Di Vaio and Jack McInerney, though their quality has not been enough for the Impact this season.

Surely, most have seen the sort of magic that McInerney can pull out his hat – this finish against Houston was just plain ridiculous – but the burgeoning partnership between the two is really that which should concern TFC.

They don’t always see the pitch together, often only one or the other on the pitch at a time, but when they do there is a certain understanding that can rip defenses to shreds – as they did against Chicago:

That little flick from Di Vaio, drawing a centre-back towards him before lifting a ball into space for his teammate was beautiful; McInerney’s finish was a touch lucky, but TFC, Doneil Henry in particular, will have to restrain himself from being too aggressive, getting drawn out of position to open up lanes for these two savvy strikers to exploit.

Neither is particularly quick, they can run, but they aren’t going to burn anybody with pace, but one cannot afford to offer them too many looks – they will punish.

Di Vaio has not been able to reproduce the sort of goal-torrent that saw him tally twenty last season – with just four this – but if he is given the space, he still knows the way to goal. He is especially dangerous when he is isolated on one defender, as he was against Columbus, mercilessly twisting up Giancarlo Gonzalez:

Gonzalez was the centre-back who earned such praise for his performances at the World Cup, but Di Vaio sends him spinning before finishing through him – clinical. Again, Toronto would be best served by maintaining a compact defensive unit, do not let individual defenders get isolated against Di Vaio or McInerney.

When not causing trouble from the forward positions, Montreal’s attack has been spurred from out wide, in the form of Justin Mapp and Andres Romero.

With Mapp on the right and Romero on the left, (they will swap intermittently), Montreal has two of the more dangerous outside threats in the league.

Mapp is the classic tricky winger, hugging the touchline, and capable of either driving around the outside or cutting into the middle to cause trouble. It was he whom intercepted the weak pass from Columbus before finding Di Vaio on the goal above, while his opening day dismantling of Dallas, leading to a Sanna Nyassi goal, was a thing of beauty - abusing three defenders before serving up a cross on a platter for his teammate at the back-post:

Mapp has yet to score this season, but with team-leading eight assists, Toronto will have to keep an eye on him. The full-backs will have their hands full, while any additional cover from the midfielders will be welcome.

Romero is a little bit of a different threat. He is more likely to take up a position in-field, but if allowed the space to run at goal he will gladly do so.

DC were guilty of allowing him far too much space; Romero more than happy to cut in-field across the top of the box, following up the play with the ball eventually falling to him on the left:

That said, he can stick to the touchline and beat a man with the best of them – here against Colorado. With five goals on the season, Toronto must be wary of his threat at all times.

Patrice Bernier has not been as influential in the attack this season – with just two assists one-quarter of his output in each of the last two seasons; he has even missed a penalty, his first in MLS. But, he still has plenty of quality and knows how to pick his spots to get forward, finding a great position on this Montreal attack before unselfishly setting up Maxim Tissot on the weekend:

Alongside Bernier in the centre of the park is Felipe, who though he has struggled to produce at times, possesses the ability to shred defenses with passes – it was he who found Bernier with that sharp ball on Tissot’s goal and it was his pass up to Di Vaio that allowed the forward to flick in McInerney.

Toronto must also be wary of Issey Nakajima-Farran. Former players have a way of coming back to haunt TFC – just ask Jacob Peterson about that – and Issey in particular will be eager to inflict a little discomfort on his former employers. He is yet to register a point for Montreal, but came very close against Salt Lake last week.


Errors have proved very costly for the Impact, particularly hesitation on the back-line, such as this mix up between Troy Perkins and Heath Pearce, with neither addressing a harmless ball, allowing CJ Sapong to pry it free, and Dom Dwyer to score his second goal of the match:

The best way to take advantage of such gaffs is to never give up on a play, chase down every ball and follow in every shot, should a rebound present itself.

Making matters worse, Montreal has been sloppy in their marking, whether from set-pieces – Dwyer opened the scoring that same match from a Matt Besler long-throw – or from open play, as when Salt Lake’s Olmes Garcia scored the eventual winner over Pearce last Thursday:

Runners in the box is key to making wide attacks fruitful – look for Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio to take advantage with late runs, each could use a goal.

Garcia’s second of the night, exposed another of Montreal’s deficiencies: the amount of space they leave at the top of the box. Bernier, when left as the only cover, can be caught out of position, leaving a lot of space – allowing Javier Morales to scoop in Garcia in Salt Lake.

That same space has made Montreal vulnerable to shots from range – Diego Valeri’s winner on the weekend was from just such a location – while Bernardo Anor scored both of Columbus’ from outside the area, this the better of the two after being allowed a free run at goal from the centre-circle to tee up his effort:

If Bradley or Gilberto is given that sort of space, they should definitely take advantage of it with a crack.

With a lack of pace amongst their back five, Montreal is vulnerable to the counter, as Philadelphia exhibited when a telegraphed pass was intercepted leading to this Vincent Noguiera goal:

The combination of speed, which TFC has, and intelligent pressure can be devastating to the Impact; Toronto’s finishing, however, must be better than it has been in recent weeks.

Points of Interest

Strangely, the rivals will meet just two times this season, with the return match to be played in Toronto on October 18 – TFC’s final home match of the season.

The two clubs have met six times in MLS play, each winning twice with the other two ending in draws. Both of Montreal’s wins have come at home, whereas TFC has the only away-win in the series, back in 2012: 3-0 on goals from Torsten Frings, Ryan Johnson, and Danny Koevermans.

The two met in this season’s finale of the Voyageurs Cup, drawing 1-1 in Toronto – Doneil Henry’s goal cancelled out by a late Justin Mapp strike – before Montreal took the championship for the second-straight season, winning 1-0 at home – Felipe’s 91st minute goal seeing out a result that would have been decided on away-goals in Montreal’s favour.

They have met a further twelve times in the Canadian Championships, Toronto winning seven, Montreal twice, with three draws. Three of TFC’s wins have come in Montreal, most notably that 1-6 result in 2009 that stole the title out of Vancouver’s grasp; Toronto also have one draw in their travels, a 0-0 back in 2012.