It was a long time coming for Impact supporters. If the offseason seemed longer than usual this year, the wait for the Impact’s season opener to start on Sunday was eternal. There were a number of storylines heading into this one: head coach Rémi Garde’s first game behind the Bleu-blanc-noir’s bench, a number of players making their Impact debuts, Ken Krolicki playing his first professional game, and the electricity deriving from a rivalry between two compatriot clubs in their season openers.
There’s no denying this was a new look Impact; seven of the 18 players in Montreal’s line-up were offseason additions, with four of them in the starting 11.
Although the Impact began the game against the run of play, the defensive block, discussed so much during preseason, stood tall and didn’t break in the first half, although the Impact did not get the opportunity to venture into Vancouver’s final third very often.
The second half started differently, this time the Impact opting to get on the front foot, earning more possession and controlling the run of play. For the Impact’s commander-in-chief, this would have been the perfect opportunity to pounce.
“We came out strong for the second half,” said Impact head coach Rémi Garde. “It would have been great to score at that moment. It’s during these spells of possession that we need to take advantage.”
Instead, the Impact conceded in the 63rd minute in one of the few times Vancouver got forward after the break, with Kei Kamara getting his head on a cross from Canadian international Alphonso Davies.
“On their first goal, they scored during our best spell of possession,” said midfielder Saphir Taïder. “We had good chances to score, but football is cruel sometimes, and we conceded instead. It’s disappointing, but we need to pick ourselves up because we have another game this weekend. We need to get points and work during the week to correct certain errors.”
The goal dampened the Impact’s play by a notch, and seven minutes later, Vancouver doubled its lead, this time Davies going from provider to scorer, after receiving a square ball in the six-yard box from Cristian Techera.
“We didn’t react well enough after the first goal, and we conceded the second because we were late on the cross,” added Garde. “Still we fought to come back, and we finished the game strong, but even if we battled, it wasn’t enough.”
It may not have been the ideal start to the season, but there is still a lot to take out of the Bleu-blanc-noir’s season opening 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Jukka Raitala, evolving next to Víctor Cabrera in central defense, had a good performance in a position he had not occupied for some time, usually patrolling the left side of the defence. In general, the Impact looked strong defensively, with all 11 players often finding themselves behind the ball, defending as a unit.
After a slightly difficult year in 2017, striker Matteo Mancosu opened his scoring account for the 2018 MLS season in style, heading in a perfect cross to bring the Impact within a goal with 10 minutes left in the game.
“He was rewarded for his efforts,” said Rémi Garde of the Italian forward. “Matteo is a very generous player that fights for the team. It’s an attitude I really love. I hope the scoring will continue now that he’s opened his account.”
Ken Krolicki also made his professional debut and earned the praise of his head coach in the process. Daniel Lovitz had a good performance at left-back, providing the inch-perfect cross for Mancosu’s goal, and almost finding the Italian forward again minutes later with another
The Impact will train in Montreal this week before travelling to Columbus for its second game of the season on Saturday, March 10, at 1pm. The Bleu-blanc-noir then plays its home opener on Saturday, March 17 at 3pm against its biggest rival, Toronto FC.