'The difference was set pieces' - Defensive struggles haunt Montreal Impact in loss to Toronto FC

John E. Sokolowski
The Montreal Impact ultimately couldn't cope with Toronto FC's physical attacking presence in the Eastern Conference final, falling 7-5 on aggregate.

TORONTO — It will forever be considered a classic, a game rerun on TV for generations to come, but the Montreal Impact won't be so happy to revisit what happened here Wednesday night at BMO Field, where, in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference final, their MLS Cup hopes ended in a dramatic 5-2 overtime loss (7-5 on aggregate).

In front of a boisterous sold out crowd, the Impact’s defense imploded — and all the goals they conceded came from areas of the game that have haunted them in the past: crosses and set pieces.

READ MORE: TFC's depth shines in East final

“If you look at both games, there was a lot of goals — it was very exciting. There was a lot of good things there,” Biello said. "From a fan’s perspective the games were amazing, but for us it’s tough.

“The difference was set pieces.”

In recent years, the Impact have been notoriously bad on dealing with opposing set pieces and crossing situations. New England Revolution forward Kei Kamara, who has enjoyed lots of success against the Impact — including two headed goals in last year’s playoffs against Montreal with the Columbus Crew — wrote on Twitter during the game: “Montreal is always sleeping on set pieces … trust me I know.”

Though defending set pieces was a problem at times throughout the season for the Impact, it wasn’t in the playoffs before this series. As goalkeeper Evan Bush noted, it seemed like an issue that had been rectified.

“We gave up five goals, so there was breakdowns for sure,” Bush said. “What made us good over the course of this run here in the playoffs kind of disappeared a little bit. Some of the things that were problems for us throughout the year and that we corrected came back to bite us.”

Impact midfielder Marco Donadel attributed the Impact’s defensive difficulties on set pieces to their lack of size and tenacity in the box, an area he feels TFC had an advantage. Toronto’s first three goals arrived from corner kicks.

“Our difficulties with set pieces isn’t news,” Donadel said. “We have a defensive line where Hassoun (Camara) is the only one who offers a strong aerial presence and we're not animals in our man-to-man coverage.”

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Bush echoed Donadel’s sentiment, saying, “If you leave either Hassoun on (Jozy) Altidore or (Nick) Hagglund, then one of them has a favorable matchup.”

Biello, in second season in charge of the Impact, tried to remain optimistic.

“It’s a tough moment for sure, for everyone, when you’re so close and falling short,” Biello said. “But in the end we’ll be back and we’ll be even stronger.”