IMFC International Watch

Four Impact players join their countries for international duty

For some, this break couldn’t come at a better time; the Impact just came off another busy week, playing three games in eight days, and eight games in the month of August. A two-week period without any games on the horizon will certainly help the team get a few things in order: injured players will have an opportunity to reintegrate into the lineup and the team can reassess how best to attack this final stretch of the season, which can see them lift a Voyageurs Cup and qualify to the MLS Cup playoffs.

A select few, however, will join their national sides abroad for important international games. While full-back Daniel Lovitz and the USMNT have a few friendlies on schedule, Lassi Lappalainen and Jukka Raitala will play two crucial games in Finland’s hunt of a first-ever European Championship berth. Samuel Piette, on his end, continues Canada’s quest in the Concacaf Nations League with back-to-back games against a familiar opponent.

Let’s dive into the details.

Samuel Piette, Canada
Concacaf Nations League
Canada 6-0 Cuba
Cuba 0-1 Canada

After doing well in Concacaf Nations League qualifying and earning a spot in League A, Canada begins an extremely important quest against the Cubans, one that can see them qualify to the Concacaf Nations League final four, giving them an opportunity to win the inaugural tournament.

This would also place the Canadians in good standing to qualify for the Hex, Concacaf’s top six, which would give the national team a crucial early qualifying opportunity for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

But hold your horses; it would take an almost perfect season for that to happen. After facing the Cubans, John Herdman’s men will face its biggest challenge when it takes on the United States in back-to-back games to try and finish atop Group A, earning them a qualification to the final four.

Canada could rejoice in the fact that it’s had success against Cuba, dominating them 7-0 in the Gold Cup group stage earlier this year. For Herdman and his men, the mission is clear: two wins out of two before taking on the Americans.

The first part of that mission was accomplished in empathetic fashion, Saturday night at BMO Field, Canada scoring six goals and conceding none to the Cubans. It’s an extremely positive start to Group A play, but the Reds will need to follow that up with an equally impressive victory on Tuesday, this time in the Cayman Islands.

And they did just that on Tuesday night, thanks to a goal in the ninth minute from the Bayern Munich man, Alphonso Davies. Although a little less dominant than in the first game considering the 1-0 score line, Canada still controlled over 80% of possession through 90 minutes, making over 600 more passes than its opponent.

Jukka Raitala and Lassi Lappalainen, Finland
European Championship qualifiers
Finland 1-0 Greece
Finland 1-2 Italy

The Finns are on a mission, and the objective is clear and concise: qualify for the 2020 Euros, for the first time EVER. It’s a tall order for the Huuhkajat, but one they’re well on their way of achieving: after six qualifying games played, Finland has collected 12 points, good for second in Group J behind only the Italians, who have won all six of those games.

The Finnish group kicked things off well with a 1-0 victory against Greece, it’s defensive unit, which included the Impact’s Jukka Raitala, staying strong throughout 90 minutes, and the Finns finally earning a breakthrough when striker Teemu Pukki slotted it in from the spot in the 52nd minute.

The real test would come against the Italians, as we already knew. The Azurri had gotten the best of Finland in their first matchup within this group, winning 2-0. This time around, the Huuhkajat managed to claw their way back after conceding early in the second, only to see Italy regain the lead seven minutes later from the penalty spot.

Still occupying the second rank of Group J, Finland will qualify for its first ever Euro if it maintains this position. But the Armenians, three points behind in third, will have a chance to test the Finn’s will when they face each other during the next international break, on October 15.

Daniel Lovitz, United States
United States 0-3 Mexico
United States 1-1 Uruguay

Daniel Lovitz is becoming a USMNT regular after receiving his first call-up in the beginning of 2019. After taking part in the Gold Cup and suffering a loss in the final at the hands of the Mexican national team, the Impact full-back and his teammates will have an opportunity to get some revenge, as they take on Mexico at Metlife Stadium in an international friendly.

Things didn’t go as planned for the Americans however, the Stars and Stripes falling 3-0 to their enemy in the south, with Impact defender Daniel Lovitz coming on as a substitute and playing 22 minutes.

Lovitz also played 20 minutes in the friendly against the Uruguyan national team, which did not feature its main strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. The Americans snatched a 1-1 draw against La Celeste thanks to a somewhat lucky goal, but it’s a step in the right direction for Gregg Berhalter’s men.