New-look Montreal defense can't slow down rampant United
It wasn’t the easiest day at the office for the Montreal Impact defense.
Heading into their road game against D.C. United on Saturday night, the Montrealers’ backline had a decidedly different feel to it. Calum Mallace, the Impact’s second-round pick at the last MLS SuperDraft, was making his debut at right back. Zarek Valentin shifted over to central defense. Another MLS debutant, Evan Bush, was given the goalkeeper’s gloves.
And as D.C. settled into the game and began piling up dangerous attempts, the question became why they weren’t capitalizing on their chances rather than what the Impact were doing to slow them down. Until Chris Pontius’ first-rate dribble and finish after 45 minutes opened the floodgates, that is.
HIGHLIGHTS: DC 3, MTL 0
“There were a lot of bullets that we dodged early in the first half where they were unlucky and we were a bit lucky to keep the ball out of the goal,” Bush told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the 3-0 defeat. “And then they finally got through and broke us down at the end of the half, which I think deflated us a little bit more than it should have.”
Needing a goal to pick up a precious road point, Montreal faced two interconnected problems: United were making the Impact chase the ball for long periods, and the heat had all 22 players looking for a water bottle at every opportunity.
But while you can find a way to make plays, you can’t simply turn the heat off with a button, and the Impact know they can’t pass their mistakes off as a result of the conditions.
“In the heat of the moment – no pun intended—guys don't think about it as much,” Zarek Valentin told MLSsoccer.com. “I know that if guys knew that we would have worked a little bit harder and got a better result, we would have played in 115 degree weather. It doesn't matter. At the end of the day, we've just got to grind out a result.”
The sting from the loss might have been eased had the Impact supporters made it to RFK Stadium to support the expansion side. Sadly, their rental bus broke down in the middle of the 12-hour journey to Washington D.C. and they had to make their way back to Montreal.
“It’s unfortunate that it had to happen,” Valentin lamented. “When we have our fans’ support, we tend to do a lot better. They came to New York and we jumped out to an early lead in that game. … We love and are so honored and proud to have such good supporters who will travel that far.”