The next step

First preseason game allows Impact to evaluate certain elements

Finally. The Montreal Impact was back on the pitch late Saturday night in Nevada. Although the Las Vegas Lights FC were just a sample of what the bleu-blanc-noir will have to measure up against, this game allowed head coach Rémi Garde and his technical staff to evaluate possible combinations through different styles of play and allowed the players to get back to work and regain their strengths.

“Everyone played,” said head coach Rémi Garde. “We made a lot of substitutions and it isn’t easy to stay in the heat of the action for 90 minutes. It was very satisfying. The players entering the game respected the plan and the new tactical disposition. There were many satisfying elements, even though there’s room for progress and we still have many things to work on.”

The work and progress will continue on the Floridian peninsula’s west coast, in St. Petersburg and its surroundings, as of today. The Impact will stay in the Tampa Bay suburb for 13 days, until February 25. This is where the staff will focus on finetuning the team’s physical preparation and instilling specific game principles.

“As of where we are right now, not one player was able to play 90 minutes at an elevated pace,” added Garde. “It’s normal. We still have four games to put together a starting XI that can debut the season. It’s programmed that way. We hope that, like Saturday night, we don’t suffer any physical tweaks, which is always good news.”

Back in their element

After two weeks of hard work during training, the players were happy to finally play 90 minutes against an opponent. This was evident during the warm-up and resulted in a high-intensity, high-concentration performance on the pitch.

“There were many positive elements,” said Saphir Taïder. “The fact that we didn’t concede a goal is great. The fact that we won as well is very good. It was our first preseason game, so obviously not everything was perfect, but the engagement, the desire, and the effort was there for everyone.”

As the players are slowly getting to know each other, reflexes develop, and anticipations adjust. Although the building of the play and Montreal’s passing made for exciting football, versatility remains important.

“There were moments when we were able to build from the back and it opened a lot of space for us,” analyzed Evan Bush. “It all depends on what the game allows us to do. We won’t be a team that enters a game with a rigid game plan. We take what is given. Teams that try to play from the back when it isn’t the time often experience costly turnovers.”

Bush also appreciated the work of defensive tandem Zakaria Diallo and Victor Cabrera, who not only shutdown the opposing team’s offense, but also moved the ball forward without taking unnecessary risks.

“Communication is developing in training,” added Bush. "We’re discovering distances and ideal positioning on the training ground. It’s all built by spending time on the field together, I thought they were both excellent during the game. We could be satisfied by the work we’ve done until now.”

Yes, the Impact can be satisfied by the current state of things. Less than a month away from the MLS season however, we know there’s still work to do before the Impact reaches the maximum of its potential.

“We’re not at our best yet, but we push forward,” added Taïder. “That’s how we’ll be ready. We have friendlies left. It’s our job to be prepared. These are moments we must accept and manage, because fatigue kicks in as well, but this was a good first game.”