MONTREAL – “You want to feel like, at least, you’re going down swinging.”
Impact head coach Jesse Marsch wasn’t taking no for an answer as he urged his men to take the game into Sporting Kansas City’s defensive third at halftime of Saturday’s 0-0 draw between the two teams, another make-or-break situation for his team.
From minutes 1 to 45, the chants in French coming from the Stade Saputo stands were the only indicator that Peter Vermes’ side was not playing at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting controlled the ball with ease and, without the ball, closed the Impact down all over the field, making nearly one third of their first-half defensive plays in the Impact’s territory.
“In the first half, not only did they press our backs with the ball, but our attacking players couldn’t find any room because they were just basically going man-to-man,” Marsch said after the game. “I don’t think we did a good enough job between moving away from defenders, trying to play behind their backline, we didn’t adjust enough.”
The most noticeable adjustment appeared on the fourth official’s electronic board, which displayed the numbers “21 33” to signal that Andrew Wenger was coming on. The rookie striker’s presence helped push SKC deeper – with a midweek game in their legs already, they made just over 10 percent of their defensive plays in the Impact’s half after the break.
In his postgame press conference, Marsch supported his men, feeling that they had been slightly unlucky not to score, and the Impact boss had a point. Both teams struggled to create clear-cut chances throughout the game, but the halftime team talk certainly gave Montreal more oomph going forward.
“We tried until the very end,” defender Hassoun Camara said. “We changed the tactics at halftime because we didn’t want them to play as if they were at home. We had a second focal point in the middle of their defense after Andrew came on, and we went deeper into their half.”