The Montreal Impact will have their work cut out for them when they play Olimpia in Honduras in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal match next Tuesday.
The Impact will head into the that match trailing 2-1, which means they’ll need to score at least twice if they want to move on to the next round.
Montreal got off to a slow start, as they conceded two goals in the first half, but they managed to make the first leg interesting in the second 45.
Victor Wanyama wasn’t incredibly influential in his first game as a member of the Impact, but that’s normal. This was his first game with his new teammates and he was playing on a horrendous surface. You can tell that he has quality though and he’s not shy about battling shoulder-to-shoulder or knocking an opponent over. The yellow card he picked up in the first half was a complete joke. Give him some time. He’ll be fine.
Here’s three things I thought about during this game:
— Orji Okwonkwo’s impact
Okwonkwo was subbed into the game at the start of the second half. The Impact brought him on in exchange for Zachary Brault-Guillard. Joel Waterman moved from centre-back to right-back while Okwonkwo slid into the right wing spot in a 4-3-3 formation.
As was the case against FC Dallas over the weekend, his presence was felt in a positive way immediately. The Impact became much more dangerous coming down the right side. Unfortunately for Montreal, it didn’t result in a goal, but he managed to create many chances. One of his crosses should have led to a penalty for his side, but that didn’t materialize (more on that later).
This team is clearly better with the young Nigerian on the field. The Impact need him to be fully fit as soon as possible. The fact that they don’t have a league game this weekend will help him get additional rest.
If Thierry Henry’s side is going to come back to win this home-and-away series, they’re going to need no. 18 to continue causing problems for Olimpia down that right side next week.
— Jackson and Ballou bounce back
Anthony Jackson and Ballou Tabla were both used as second-half substitutes by Henry. Jackson was coming off an underwhelming start against FC Dallas on Saturday, while Tabla hadn’t been used since the first leg against Saprissa in the last Champions League round.
Let’s start with Jackson.
He was way more noticeable on Tuesday than he was on Saturday. He managed to draw a free-kick from a dangerous area right outside the Olimpia box and he got on the end of a Tabla cross, but his header went just wide (he should have buried that opportunity).
Most people have figured this out by now: Jackson is much better coming off the bench than he is as a starter. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. He should embrace that. There’s always room on a team for a player who can chip in off the bench.
As for Ballou, the last time we saw him, he didn’t seem to be too confident. He wasn’t taking players on and it seemed like the moment was too big for him at Saprissa. Tonight, in front of his home crowd, he looked way more comfortable with the ball on his foot. As I mentioned earlier, he made a brilliant play to keep the ball in play along the left touch line before dishing a perfect cross to Jackson, who missed the target with a header.
It was important for Tabla to send a positive message to the coaching staff tonight. Yes, he’s still young, but the team needs to know that they can count on him to create on the wing. With Lassi Lappalainen out, this is a golden opportunity for him to make his mark on the squad.
The two Canadians couldn’t find the equalizer for their team, but overall this was a positive performance for them.
— Getting CONCACAF’D
It’s 2020, and there’s no reason for this tournament not to have V.A.R. That may end up costing the Impact a spot in the semi-final.
Look, it’s not the only reason the Impact didn’t come out of this game with a positive result, but it didn’t help. Montreal has themselves to blame for their first-half performance. There’s not argument there. But the assistant referee convincing the head referee to overturn a hand-ball call in the box is inexcusable.
If you haven’t seen it by now, here’s the replay of the play:
The Impact were down 2-1 at the time and they would’ve had an opportunity to even score from the penalty spot. The head referee called a penalty on the play, but that ruling was overturned after he had a conversation with the assistant referee. Why the closest referee would defer to the further referee is beyond me.
Anyway, it’s done now. There’s nothing anybody can do about it. But I loved Club America coach Miguel Herrera’s quote from earlier in the day (h/t: MLS Buzz on Twitter):
“It’s not that the tournament doesn’t work, they just don’t give seriousness. If it were a serious tournament, like the one they made us leave (Libertadores), it would have VAR.”
And TFC forward Jozy Altidore also weighed in on Twitter after the fact:
One last thing:
I know it’s a “three thoughts” blog post, but I have to give Saphir Taider a shoutout for the rocket of a goal he scored in the second half. He wasn’t particularly impressive in the first 45 minutes, but what a crack from distance:
(Feature Imagine Credit: Montreal Impact)