Play with your head

The Montreal Impact (3-2-0, 9 pts) will stay at the top of the MLS Eastern Conference at least until next Saturday. The Bleu-blanc-noir can be grateful for two salutary headers against Columbus Crew SC, after being on the wrong end of a shutout in the previous two games.

“To score a goal like Hassoun did, on set pieces, is exceptional, it made the difference,” said head coach Mauro Biello. “We saw it last week in Seattle.”

Even though IMFC players only won 8 aerial duels out of 22 (36% efficiency), 4 of those were in the Crew SC penalty area. Conversely, Columbus was limited to two aerial duels won in Montreal’s 18-yard box. One of the reasons behind this stat is the Impact’s defensive stability and competence. After 90 minutes, the defence claimed 30 interceptions, 16 successful tackles and 14 blocked shots or crosses.

“We wanted to get back on track,” explained Evan Bush. “For us, it was a great performance. We dictated the pace of the game. They had a low block to try and defend a little bit and try to catch us on the counter, but we dealt with that very well.

“Hassoun’s goal was a byproduct of the training we did this week,” he continued. “We worked a lot on set pieces, not only defensively but offensively as well. We knew their defensive strategy on corners and we knew that if we could free up Hassoun, his skill in the air would do the rest. It meant the world, because he’s the only other guy who has been here as long as me!”

Kyle Bekker’s headed goal late in the second half sealed the three points for the Impact. On his return after missing the last two games through injury, Ambroise Oyongo delivered a peach of a cross after creating a yard of space for himself through a nice bit of skill.

“After the game in Seattle, set pieces have been an important focus for us,” said Bekker. “It was good for Hassoun to get on the end of one.

“I think it’s important to build on each performance. It’s nice to have a good game and score, but the most important is the three points, ending our two game losing streak and the win at home. We now push on to Chicago.”

Even with two headed goals, the Impact players don’t have their heads in the clouds.