Know Your Enemy: Montreal Impact

This has been a roller coaster of a season for Montreal Impact. At the end of April they had six points from eight matches, and they went 1-4-0 in May.

But the Eastern Conference is a forgiving, if volatile, beast. Beginning in June, the Impact reeled off six wins in eight and rocketed up the standings and into the playoff picture. But the Canadians averaged one point per match over their next six and fell back to the pack as the Union and DC United scampered up the table. A huge 3-0 victory over New York Red Bull in their last match now has the Impact in sixth place, three points ahead of New England Revolution and five above DC. However, the Revs have one game in hand and United has two, so Montreal can’t feel safe and likely needs to snag points in at least one of their final three away matches at Philadelphia, DC, and New England. Currently, the Impact are four points behind the fifth-place Union and have played one game more than Jim Curtin’s men.

Montreal can score now…?

For a team with the second lowest goals scored total in the east, the Impact have been bulging Tommy Smythe’s onion bag at a surprising rate recently. Remi Garde’s squad has not been shut out in eight matches, and they have notched more than one goal in half those games.

To the surprise of precisely nobody, Montreal is once again paced by Ignacio Piatti. The Argentine playmaker is sporting a casual 13 goal/9 assist line this year as he once again claims ownership over the left side of every pitch in MLS. Supporting the stellar attacker this season have been Alejandro Silva and Saphir Taider. Silva has two goals and 10 helpers this year while Taider has added five and six respectively.

Be patient then pounce

After playing deep and struggling to create anything going forward early in the season, Remi Garde has slowly added more attacking elements to his system, resulting in a counterattack that needs few bodies forward to be dangerous. Piatti, Silva, and Taider can all advance the ball when given space, and Taider in particular has shown the ability to pop up all over the pitch as a connector that links the defense and attack (though Silva put in quite a shift on the right against Red Bull last match).

The somewhat hidden key to the Impact’s success, though, may be a short, stout, and surprisingly mobile holding midfielder named Samuel Piette. The Canadian destroyer has three key qualities that help him thrive in the engine room of Montreal’s system: Energy, anticipation, and a quick, simple passing tree. Piette lurks in the dark alleys around passing lanes into the center, cutting out aggressive vertical balls and then immediately playing away from trouble to instigate counterattacks; he’s extremely difficult to counterpress.

When they come to Philadelphia on September 15, the Impact will sit deep and absorb pressure, looking to use Piette and their dangerous attackers to inflict sudden damage on the Union’s young defense.

Catch all the action this weekend at 7:30PM EST at Talen Energy Stadium.

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