MONTREAL – The language that Impact head coach Jesse Marsch opens his postgame press conferences with is usually an accurate barometer of his mood.
“This was a good game, because 11 players committed to defense,” Marsch said in French.
Visibly thrilled with his men’s defensive performance, particularly in the second half, Marsch praised their response to Lee Nguyen’s 44th minute equalizer, a goal that was as odd as it was heartbreaking. Marsch saw his men make a point of being hard to play against and defensively sound.
But most importantly, he saw them keep their cool.
HIGHLIGHTS: MTL 2, NE 1
“There seemed to be a confidence, on the field, in terms of not panicking,” Marsch told reporters, “knowing that the other team was going to throw some things forwards but that we were ready for them and that we were going to handle it.”
Montreal’s defensive effort is all the more impressive when looking at the many players who swapped their usual position for another. Justin Mapp, once again, was the Impact’s No. 10. Davy Arnaud, Marsch’s jack-of-all-trades, moved to the left. Felipe dropped deeper, alongside Patrice Bernier.
“Regardless of where we put guys on the field, there’s still a tactical understanding of how we want to play,” Marsch explained. “It’s most important to have good reactions and, when things happen, how quickly we can assess what’s going on and then react.”
Rallying after Nguyen’s goal, scoring one of their own and holding on to the lead presents the Impact with a symbolic reward: their seven wins are more than Canadian rivals Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps could muster up in their respective inaugural seasons, and it is certainly a milestone that the enthusiastic Impact faithful will cherish.
But in the players’ minds, this is not enough. The points they have dropped, most recently last weekend in Philadelphia, still generate a certain dose of disappointment among the squad.
Moreover, Marsch feels the Impact have stopped thinking of themselves as an expansion team – a turn of phrase he described as the “E-word” that the club has virtually banned from their vocabulary.
“We don’t want to use that, Jesse’s right,” team captain Davy Arnaud said. “I think other people talk about that more than we do. We obviously are an expansion team. From day one, we’ve said that we don’t want that to be what we’re about or use that as any kind of excuse because we expect more from ourselves.”