Fighting adversity

First rival bout of the season ends in favour of Toronto

Saturday night didn’t go as planned for the Impact at Stade Saputo. With a full house and the sworn enemy in town for the first time in 2019, the Impact fell 2-0 when it was all said and done, Toronto FC scoring the goal that would act as a dagger with just seconds left in the game to nab all three points in Montreal.

In the end, it could’ve gone both ways. The Impact had its fair share of opportunities and came close to grabbing the lead when Orji Okwonkwo made his way in on goal in the first half, only to see his effort blocked by Quentin Westberg.

Finally, it was a well-placed shot by Alejandro Pozuelo, his eighth of the season, that opened the scoring for the visitors. The game was delayed for 30 minutes afterward, and although the Impact continued pressing for an equalizer, it just didn’t go their way.

“What I noticed is that we weren’t put into danger before conceding the first goal,” said Impact head coach Rémi Garde. “It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t equalize after the break. Anthony Jackson-Hamel had a very good opportunity. There weren’t too many clear-cut chances for both teams, but I think we showed that we could’ve gotten something from this game.”

It wasn’t for a lack of trying. Montreal tried 17 shots on Westberg’s net, including four on target, and controlled play for large periods of time. The task was made more difficult when Samuel Piette went down with an injury in the second half, forcing Garde to replace the team’s defensive midfielder and figure out a solution.

“We lost the ball too easily and I think we could’ve kept possession more,” said full-back Bacary Sagna. “There was a lack of communication at times, so we know we need to keep working hard as a team. We’re a good team with lots of quality. When we play with confidence, we’re one of the better teams. We have to do it on the pitch now.”

Last stretch of the season

After not losing consecutive games all season, the Impact has lost its last three games, falling 2-1 in Atlanta before being edged out 3-2 at home by Minnesota. Rémi Garde’s men remain fifth in the Eastern Conference, however, four points up on the seventh and last playoff spot with 12 games remaining. It leaves them in good position, as they still have seven games remaining at Stade Saputo.

The Impact will also play the second leg of its Canadian Championship quarterfinal on July 24, after tying the first leg 2-2 last Wednesday.

“I’m confident that we can get out of this, win more and get into the playoffs,” said goalkeeper Evan Bush. “It’s about having the right mentality together and getting back on the same page. I think we did pretty well until Sam went down, and it shook things up a little bit for us. When that happens, we need to be a little stronger as a group. We need to push through adversity when it strikes like we did earlier in the season.”