Armchair Analyst: Montreal Impact dominate Toronto FC in Knockout Round

Alicia Rodriguez wrote my lede for me:

How about this for a narrative on that third goal: An MLS lifer sets up a local boy come back from Europe who's been on the outs all season, eventually setting up a global superstar.

Welcome to MLS in 2015.

The lifer was Dilly Duka, the local boy was Patrice Bernier, and the global superstar was Didier Drogba. It was one of the better team goals you'll see in these Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, and it is pretty definitive proof that Montreal have figured out how to create a team with balance and group identity despite the disparate backgrounds of most of their roster.

In essence, they've become something similar to what LA looked like from 2009 through 2014. Of course they have many, many more games to win before we can put them in the Galaxy's neighborhood, but the 3-0 win over Toronto FC was an excellent start.

Here's what happened:


1. Starboard Side!

Montreal have habitually held possession down the right-hand side this season, only looping over to the left on the break. In the last two games against TFC (Thursday night and this past Sunday), they flip-flopped, instead choosing to run most of their attack on the left.

Every time they were on the ball they were shuttling it out wide to that side, and TFC had no answers. Piatti was particularly vicious, hugging the touchline to create space for Drogba to operate against the out-gunned Reds central defenders, then cutting inside only when it was time to either create or score a goal.

This is Piatti's heat map, and it is not the heat map of a traditional No. 10:

Mauro Biello shuffled the deck in moving Piatti to that spot, and it paid early, often, and definitively.

TFC never found an answer.


2. Cut Adrift

This was too comprehensive a beatdown to pick on only one player, but I'm gonna point some fingers at Jackson anyway. He's been making cameos at right back on and off for nearly half a decade, so he shouldn't have looked like a drowning man desperately trying to learn how to swim.

But he did. His insane gamble led to the break-out on Montreal's first goal:

There's no reason for any right back to try to pick that pass off. By trying to, he turns a 4-v-4 into a 3-v-2, and moments later Chris Konopka was picking the ball out of his own net.

I think Montreal's the better team, and would have won anyway. But TFC should have been able to make them earn that first goal. Because of Jackson's mental lapse, they didn't.

Aside: For what it's worth, that's not a particularly bad turnover from Michael Bradley. If you get on the ball in that spot you've got to try to make a play, and it's not like Toronto's defensive shape was bad at the moment that possession was lost.


3. On The Back Foot

The thing about the Impact is that they actually want you to press them. If you pull your backline forward that opens up tons of space for their speedy wingers (guys like Duka, Dom Oduro and -- on this night -- Piatti) to run into and exploit.

TFC know that, and so they came out in a low block. That forced Montreal to try to carry the game through midfield which, to their credit, they did admirably.

Then after they got the lead? That's when Montreal settled into the counterpuncher style in which they're so comfortable.

Look at where their possessions started before going up 1-0, and where they started afterward:

This is a team that knows what it does well, but has the skill and savvy to come up with an execute a workable Plan B.

I think they have a chance to go very far in this postseason. Get used to hearing that North End Bell, folks. This team won't be done for a while.

Series: 
Topics: