Drilling down on: at Montreal 2, Columbus 1

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Man of the Match: Zarek Valentin’s first MLS goal was a timely one. Having just seen his team go down 1-0 near the hour mark, Valentin took advantage of a wide open right flank, charged into the Columbus area and beat Andy Gruenebaum in the 78th minute, starting the Impact’s comeback. The fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Valentin was making his 37th career MLS appearance.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • For 60 minutes, this was a terrible match played out by two teams more intent on avoiding mistakes than creating chances. The players cruised through the first 58 minutes without putting a shot on target, playing as if the teams had agreed to the type of mutually beneficial draw you see at the end of group stages or during the final rounds of an Italian Serie A campaign.
  • For Columbus, the approach was neither new nor entirely inappropriate. They’ve had relative success playing conservative, opportunistic soccer, and at Stade Saputo, there was only reason Robert Warzycha might change: Montreal’s terrible defensive record (having allowed a league high 35 goals). Given Columbus’s lack of attacking options (with Jairo Arrieta unable to travel into Canada), Warzycha may have made the right choice.
  • Montreal, however, were shockingly content with an uneventful game. Considering Columbus may develop into one of their rivals for an Eastern Conference playoff spot, it was a naive lack of urgency. Against a team giving up only one goal per game, the chances were unlikely to create themselves.
  • So when Columbus converted a 64th minute corner kick through Milovan Mirosevic, Montreal seemed to have brought their deficit upon themselves. Not only had they failed to mark Mirosevic (and could have gotten a much better effort from Donovan Ricketts), they’d allowed themselves to become complacent against a Crew team that was playing possum.
  • But what Columbus took, they gave back with two instances of terrible defending.
    • First, the equalizer, when play built down Montreal’s left quickly moved through the middle and out right. Columbus’s left-siders (Nemanja Vukovic and Eddie Gavin) were far too narrow, allowing Valentin a relatively easy goal.
    • Second, the play that set up the eventual winner: Montreal was able to get Justin Mapp matched up against Chris Birchall in the left of the area. Mapp is among the quickest players in the league. Birchall is a guy who’s barely in the league (and really wasn’t up to the job today). Eight yards from touch, Mapp tapped a ball back toward the middle as Birchall ran through him, taking him down, making no adjustments to (or attempts to play) the ball. Easy call, easy conversion for Patrice Bernier.
  • Montreal played about 15 good minutes and took three points. In fairness, that was 14 more minutes than Columbus.
  • Montreal’s stars: Marco Di Viao played 90 wasteful minutes, the emblem of his team’s tepid performance. Alessandro Nesta did not make an appearance.
  • For Columbus, they leave Montreal with three points having slipped through their fingers; however, these kinds of results are part of their approach. For every win they steal in Seattle, they have to accept they might have one stolen from them in Montreal.
  • And for the Impact: Whew. It’s a game they should have expected a win from before kick off. They got it, even if their performance was mostly terrible. Coach Marsch should respond harshly to any sign from his players that they accomplished something on Sunday. It’s not like they stole a game from Sporting or D.C.