As difficult as it is to tell one of Marco Di Vaio or Jack McInerney to sit out, playing with an extra man in midfield is probably the best solution for last-place Montreal.
In the first two games, the Impact lined up in a 4-2-3-1, with a more defensive approach and it worked well, as they played to a positive 0-0 draw in Vancouver and beat Houston 3-0 at Stade Saputo.
With two back-to-back positive results, which has been something of a rarity for the Impact this season, one would think that head coach Frank Klopas would have kept the same setup. But with the pressure to play Marco Di Vaio and Jack Mcinerney together in the attack, he didn’t.
Di Vaio was returning to full fitness and it’s hard to tell your designated player who’s making the big bucks to sit on the bench, and it’s hard to tell Jack McInerney, your top scorer, to do the same. So Klopas put the two together for next three games in a 4-4-2. And, probably not by coincidence, the Impact lost all three.
By the Columbus game, it became clear that the Impact’s current crop of midfielders couldn’t sustain this kind of setup, and so on Thursday, away to Real Salt Lake, Klopas dropped McInerney to the bench in favour of an extra midfielder in Calum Mallace and reverted back to the 4-2-3-1.
Montreal still lost the game 3-1, but the performance was a lot better; nothing like the deplorable performance in Columbus last week, where the Impact looked completely out of sorts in midfield.
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Against an RSL side which boasts one of the best midfields in MLS, the Impact were a lot more effective. They pressed fairly well, keeping a high defensive line as much as they could. They closed down spaces, giving very little time and space for RSL’s playmaker, Javier Morales, to play between the lines. And Hassoun Camara wreaked havoc on the right hand side as he freely bombed forward from fullback and was rewarded with a goal in the first half.
At halftime, the game was tied 1-1. RSL still looked like the better team, but the Impact were holding their own.
The game was lost only when Issey Nakajima-Farran was sent off in the 65th minute for a dangerous studs-up challenge, leaving the Impact to play the remainder of the game down a man.
RSL found the breakthrough five minutes later. The goal emanated from the left hand flank which, because of Nakajima-Farran’s ejection, was now left unoccupied. And with the Impact having to push for an equalizer, conceding a third goal was inevitable.
The Impact are in desperate need of results at the moment if they wish to stay in the playoff race, but they can at least take heart from their most recent performance. Having that extra man in midfield with the 4-2-3-1 setup will probably give them the best chance of success down the stretch. Had Klopas kept the same formation and the Impact had played with the same aggressive mentality against run-of-the-mill sides like Chivas and Columbus, they might not have had come out of those games empty-handed.
Alternating between Marco Di Vaio and Jack McInerney shouldn’t be a huge deal. With Champions League fixtures loading up the schedule in August and September, they’re going to need some rest anyway as the Impact don’t really have any other forwards to choose from at the moment.