MONTREAL -- “If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he'd have put grass up there,” said the late, great Brian Clough. It is a motto the Montreal Impact tried to call upon last Sunday in their 1-1 draw against the Columbus Crew.
They had to, in fact, given Columbus’ game plan. The Impact prefer playing the ball on the ground, usually through the middle. They’re also a fairly short team: their front six, on Sunday, came at a towering 5-foot-9½-inches average. The math, for Robert Warzycha, was both easy to do and relatively familiar.
“They were really clogging the middle of the field,” team captain Davy Arnaud told reporters after the game. “They want you to play long stuff in the air. Their center backs are big boys. They win everything. That’s not a match-up we really want, flipping balls onto Marco [Di Vaio]’s head, because they’re going to win them.”
The solution for Montreal was thus to play around 6-foot-4 Chad Marshall and 6-foot-3 Glauber. As assistant coach Mauro Biello acknowledged in his postgame presser, the Impact tried to stretch the field and play where Clough believed they should, which they could only do on the flanks.
“Teams are going to try to come out of here with a draw,” Biello said. “They’ll try to reduce space in the middle, and we have to find space on the sides and in deep. In the second half, that’s what we did with Justin [Mapp] and Sanna [Nyassi] on the flanks. They created difficulties for the other team.”
The final product wasn’t always there, especially in the first half, but Biello was satisfied with the overall effort and adaptation to the tweaked approach. Di Vaio’s opening goal, after all, came after a Felipe cross from the left flank for Nyassi.
“In the first half, our final passes and our crosses could have been better,” Biello admitted. “Most of our chances came from the flanks, but the final pass wasn’t there. In the second half, we created many more chances, and we scored an excellent goal.”