HARRISON, N.J. – Four games into the 2012 MLS season and the Montreal Impact are already the least disciplined team in the league. And it's starting to grate on Jesse Marsch.
“Yes, it is [a concern],” Montreal's head coach admitted after Saturday’s 5-2 loss at the New York Red Bulls. “This is just about continuing to come up with a common understanding as to what it means to play together on the field.”
If the Impact’s disciplinary habits four games into 2012 stay the same throughout the season, it appears they are well on course to remaining dead last on the fair play index.
So far this season, Montreal players have committed 67 fouls, or 16.75 per game. That's quite a bit more than the current league average of 13.
Part of that is because the Impact aren't just giving up fouls – they're giving up goals and players. Montreal have conceded penalties in two straight games and played with 10 men after Jeb Brovsky's early red card in a 2-0 loss at Columbus two weekends ago.
Marsch has insisted he wanted his team to be “tough to play against,” and stats show all three lines do want to give the opposition a hard time – physically, anyway.
Montreal's fouls committed this season thus far are distributed fairly evenly between forwards (20), midfielders (26) and defenders (21). The central midfield duo of Patrice Bernier and Felipe, who have committed 18 fouls between them, stand out for their robust approach to the game.
But discipline is more than just fouls. It is also about hard work, awareness and cohesion. And while Marsch refused to talk about the referees who call those fouls, he did send a message his men’s way.
“I think we need to understand that in order to be successful, we have to stick to what we’re good at and to playing as a group,” Marsch warned. “And if we now play with guys on their own page and trying their own thing and don’t stay organized and disciplined in what we think is important, then we’re going to have a lot of trouble.”
And, most likely, not a lot of points to show for it.