Impact needs to build on preseason form
This is it! After a four-month break, the Impact gets back to work this Saturday at 10pm EST (TVA Sports, 98.5, CJAD 800). Although the Bleu-blanc-noir was but a whisker away from qualifying to the postseason last year, there are still a lot of positives to take out of Rémi Garde’s first season at the helm of the Montreal club; which is why the starting 11 we’ll see come Saturday should be fairly similar to the one deployed near the end of the last campaign, with a few upgrades, like centre back Zakaria Diallo, midfielder Harry Novillo and striker Maximiliano Urruti. And considering the team’s preseason form – three wins, two draws, seven goals scored and just one conceded – in the last month, we can hope for a good start to the season, even if eight of our first nine games will be played on the road.
So, in the blue corner, we have the Impact, looking to build on a strong end to its 2018 season. But in the red corner, this weekend’s opponents, the San Jose Earthquakes, cleaned house following a season well below expectations, during which they finished at the bottom of the general standings. Now, the former Chivas Guadalajara head coach, Matias Almeyda, took over control of the North Californian club, but will have to make do with almost the exact same squad as last year. Some players did join the group this winter, notably Christian Espinoza, on loan from Villareal, but similar to Rémi Garde’s situation last year, Almeyda may need some time to make the necessary adjustments in his new club. That being said, here are the three keys to the game for Montreal.
- Settle into the game in the first 10 minutes
It will be important for the Impact to get used to the pace of a regular-season game as fast as possible. That’s why the first 10 minutes will be crucial: Rémi Garde’s men will have to try and control the tempo and limit the Quakes’ attack, all while creating their own momentum. We know now that away games are often harder to manage, and scoring chances are limited. Starting this game on the right foot can help the Bleu-blanc-noir quickly find its bearings.
- Maintain block formation
Staying disciplined in its positioning is one of the strong suits of this Montreal side defensively. During our preseason games, we saw a dense block that limited spaces between the lines, making the other team’s progression through the middle quite laborious and forcing them to maintain possession in non-threatening areas. This type of team work is essential in preventing quality shooting opportunities.
- Demonstrate offensive prowess
Time to pick it up a notch. With intensity increasing, Montreal’s offensive weapons will have no choice but to be accurate in their passing, shooting, and crossing, to try and breakthrough in the final third. Like Rémi Garde once said: “We work hard to bring the ball into the final third and after that, it’s all about talent.” Good news, as there is a lot of talent in this team.