MONTREAL – All of a sudden, the Montreal Impact looked lively.
They had looked, by head coach Frank Klopas’ own admission, lethargic. The home leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals against Toronto FC on Wednesday was their first game after the magical CONCACAF Champions League run. Some starters hadn’t played in a while. Chances were few and far between.
But then, about 10 minutes before halftime, Klopas scrapped his original 4-2-3-1 formation. Right winger Dominic Oduro moved alongside Jack McInerney, while Eric Alexander shifted to right midfield. Montreal created three opportunities shortly thereafter.
The breakthrough may not have come then, but the changes brought the best out of this Montreal lineup; McInerney turned in a Nigel Reo-Coker cross in the 69th minute – it was his fourth goal in five games in all competitions – and Montreal will take a 1-0 lead to BMO Field next Wednesday for the second leg. As a popular fast-food chain once touted, change is good.
“It helped Jack,” Klopas told reporters postgame. “With [Ignacio] Piatti there, he’s closer to him. He can beat guys and he can support him. I think Dom did that with his movement. [McInerney] has got that nose for the goal. If you give him chances... his movement is good, the way he gets open, the way he moves. We’ve got to give him service.”
Few people enjoyed the dire first half, and Klopas didn’t either, what with his team’s “negative balls” to the back and the failure to respond to McInerney’s runs. More chances could have improved Montreal’s position going into the second leg.
“When we play a 4-5-1, [Klopas] wants the midfielders to do the work and me to just stay up top, wait for my opportunity,” McInerney told reporters. “It's frustrating when you don't get the ball for 10 or 15-minute stretches. You just want to come back and get a touch. I think it’s just something we have to fight through, and at the end of the day if they don’t get me the ball, it’s not my fault.”
But McInerney has always said that he thrives in a 4-4-2. Klopas’ switches on Wednesday were a perfect scenario for him: Oduro is his “favorite player to play with on the team.”
“We read off each other well, and I can kind of check to him and play in those balls in behind,” McInerney said. “I think those last ten minutes of the first half were perfect examples of that: we connected a couple of times and created chances.”