Montreal Impact's woes on set-pieces reach new level after draw with Chicago Fire

MONTREAL – There wasn’t a first win for the Montreal Impact on Saturday against the Chicago Fire, but there was another ‘first’ of a gloomier kind.

As tweeted out by MLSsoccer.com’s Matthias Van Halst when Quincy Amarikwa scored off a corner kick in the 54th minute of the 1-1 tie at Olympic Stadium, Montreal became the first team this season to concede off all types of set plays, including throw-ins.

In his postgame press conference, head coach Frank Klopas admitted his team has to examine its set-piece defense more closely.

“We have assignments, and we have to stay with our assignments,” Klopas told reporters with a somewhat dejected chuckle. “Out of nothing, you see we lose the ball, they get a set piece and we give up a goal like that. It’s an area of the game we need to keep working on and improving because, obviously, it can change the games. Winning or losing.”

All previous set play goals conceded by Montreal in 2014 contributed to a defeat, starting with Blas Pérez’s penalty kick and Mauro Diaz’s splendid direct free kick as the Impact lost 3-2 at FC Dallas in their season opener on March 8. Will Bruin scored off a throw-in when Houston won 1-0 a week later, while an indirect free kick goal was ultimately credited to Lamar Neagle in a 2-0 Seattle win at the Big O on March 23.

Presented with the statistic after Saturday’s game, Montreal’s Karl W. Ouimette had a most simple way of describing what’s needed to address it.

“Practice, practice, practice,” Ouimette said. “You’ve got to follow your guy and not let him go. You also can’t afford conceding a foul, because MLS is increasingly clamping down on holding in the box. You really just have to work on those plays.”