MONTREAL — When going a man down, switching tactics is usually rather straightforward, even if controlling the game becomes that much more difficult. When two opposing teams lose a player to a red card, the reconfiguration gets a tad more complicated — and interesting.
In the 21st minute of Montreal’s 3-1 win over San Jose on Saturday, Steven Lenhart and Hassoun Camara were both dismissed after a physical confrontation in the Impact’s penalty area, forcing head coaches Frank Yallop and Jesse Marsch to modify their approach.
Having lost a forward, Yallop gave Chris Wondolowski the whole set of keys to the Earthquakes attack, but Marsch had to make more comprehensive adjustments so that the 10-vs.-10 situation did not play into San Jose’s hands, especially as his team faced a 1-0 deficit after Wondolowski’s ensuing penalty kick.
WATCH: Lenhart, Camara sent off
“What we talked about before the game is [that] San Jose like an open game,” Marsch said in his postgame press conference. “When the field gets bigger with fewer numbers on the field, you don’t want it to turn into an open game. We did a good job of keeping things compact and not just letting them run at us with tons of space.”
With Camara gone, Marsch moved Jeb Brovsky to left center back and right midfielder Davy Arnaud dropped to Brovsky’s initial right back position — a spot that Arnaud became familiar with during games away at Columbus and New York back in March.
Lamar Neagle took up Arnaud’s usual right midfield spot while Felipe moved to the left, a role he had conveniently rehearsed in training days before the encounter. The positioning of Patrice Bernier and Collen Warner, the Impact’s central midfielders, remained essentially the same, as did that of lone striker Marco Di Vaio.
The alterations were perfected during the break as Montreal looked for a way to push San Jose out of the driver’s seat and make it their own.
“At halftime, we felt like we wanted to push Patrice a little bit ahead of Collen so that [San Jose's Sam] Cronin didn’t have so much time on the ball,” Marsch explained. “I think that adjustment meant that we were able to push them a little bit higher on the field, and it wasn’t so easy for them to knock the ball back and forth. Once we did that, we got control of the game.”