GUADALAJARA, Mexico – The Montreal Impact closed out their preseason friendlies down south with a 1-1 tie against Mexican Primera División side Atlas in 82-degree weather on Thursday.
Sanna Nyassi got the goal for the Impact in the 57th minute, striking a right-footed shot into the bottom left corner from just inside the penalty area after playing a neat one-two with striker Eduardo Sebrango.
Atlas tied the game in bizarre circumstances three minutes later, when Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush was fed a slightly underhit backpass, which he tried to punt upfield only for it to rebound off a charging Atlas striker and into the net.
Los Zorros had the majority of possession and created the better chances, none more so when they hit the woodwork twice and forced a smart save out of Impact goalkeeper Donovan Rickets, all in the space of 60 seconds in the first half.
The game also threatened to boil over on occasions, proof of it being yellow cards shown to Montreal’s Shavar Thomas, Collen Warner, Calum Mallace and Miguel Montaño. The expansion squad again played a passing game, pressuring the opposition high up the field when not in possession. However, they have yet to find real cohesion further up the pitch.
The biggest negative for Montreal was an injury to former Inter Milan defender Nelson Rivas, who was subbed off after 29 minutes.
“It's a muscle strain,” coach Jesse Marsch told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “We'll evaluate either tomorrow or in a couple of days.”
On the whole, Marsch declared himself pleased with his team’s performance and the way preseason camp in Mexico has gone.
“More than anything, the commitment from each guy every day has been very good,” he said.
One of the major pluses has been the early signs that the defense is not likely to leak many goals. The team only conceded one goal in four games, but Marsch gives the credit for that statistic to the team as a whole.
“We've got a good group of defenders, but as a team, we're committed to defending as a group,” he explained. “Everyone from the forwards all the way down, we have a bunch of guys that are committed to making it hard on the other team.”
Although the trip has gone well, Marsch emphazised that there is a long way to go to prepare the team for March 10, when the Impact will make their MLS debut against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Said Marsch: “It's certainly good to get some results and get the group together and developing the relationships in the team, but we also have to be very aware that there is a lot of work to do.”
The primary concern at this moment is defining the final squad. Montreal traveled to Guadalajara with a number of players on trial. Marsch says that will start to be sorted in the coming days.
The Impact fly back to chilly Canada on Sunday and will get two well-deserved days of rest before training starts up again on Feb. 1.
Impact’s first-half lineup: Donovan Ricketts, Josh Gardner, Nelson Rivas (Hassoun Camara, 29), Shavar Thomas, Calum Mallace, Francisco Mendoza, Felipe, Collen Warner, Justin Mapp, Brian Ching, Justin Braun
Second-half lineup: Evan Bush, Tyson Wahl, Nevio Pizzolitto, Hassoun Camara, Simon Gatti, Miguel Montaño, Ian Westlake, Bryan Arguez, Sanna Nyassi, Aaron Schoenfeld, Eduardo Sebrango
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.