Montreal Impact

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Two for Taidir as Montreal beats Seattle, moves into second (video)

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Don’t bother the Montreal Impact with things like traditional stats and the absence of their talisman.

They’re apparently going to just keep on winning.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings ]

The Impact are now second in the Eastern Conference with 27 points — albeit having played MLS’ most matches — despite carrying a minus-7 goal differential and missing serial MVP candidate Ignacio Piatti for all but five matches.

Then again, Saphir Taidir has seven goals on the season, two of them in a 2-1 defeat of visiting Seattle on Wednesday.

The Sounders are going in the other direction, losers of three-straight and officially winless on their four-match road swing. Victor Rodriguez converted a penalty for Seattle’s lone goal.

Sixteen-year-old Danny Leyva debuted for Seattle in the loss, and the Sounders were without Cristian Roldan due to USMNT duty. Montreal did not have Daniel Lovitz for the same reason.

Montreal loses Piatti for another 8-12 weeks

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Montreal’s lofty hopes just took a major hit, with annual Player of the Season candidate Ignacio Piatti lost for 8-12 weeks with a ligament injury.

Piatti, 34, has scored 75 goals for the Impact since arriving from San Lorenzo in 2014, chipping in 34 assists to boot. He scored 16 or more goals in each of the previous three seasons, including a 16+11 campaign last year.

[ MORE: U.S. U-20s move on ]

He scored thrice in the club’s first three matches this season before a knee injury cost him the next 10. He returned for two matches before this current flare-up.

The Impact have dealt with Piatti’s absence well, sitting two points back of East-leading DC United. They have a seven-point lead on eight-place Toronto FC, who have played three less matches.

Saphir Taidir becomes even more in-focus for Montreal during Piatti’s absence, though getting him back for the stretch run would be a nice boon for Remi Garde.

Impact travel saga highlights how far MLS still has to go

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Major League Soccer has made many impressive strides in its 24 seasons of existence. But if the Montreal Impact’s travel situation proved anything, it’s that the league still has a long way to go to be compared alongside the big four American leagues – The NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.

[READ: Top Premier League Storylines for Week 36]

The Montreal Impact spent around 13 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday in transit ahead of its match on Wednesday evening against the New England Revolution. Remarkably, the Impact beat the Revolution, 3-0 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., but it should never have taken that long to get the Impact down – or any professional team – from Montreal to the Boston suburbs.

According to an article in the Athletic, which details the Impact’s administrative travel mishaps, the team ended up spending seven hours in the Montreal International Airport waiting for a delayed flight to Logan International Airport in Boston, only for the flight to be cancelled at 10 p.m.

The players were then scheduled to arrive back at the airport the next morning to take a charter flight, but then that flight was delayed a further five hours, due to a flight schedule change – Logan Airport wouldn’t accept the charter – and having to go through customs and immigration in Montreal before re-boarding the flight and waiting their turn.

Shockingly, the Impact arrived at their hotel with just three and a half hours before kickoff. Evan Bush, the Impact’s starting goalkeeper and representative for the MLS Players Association, believed that the game should have been called off. Per the Athletic, the Impact asked the league to postpone the game, but the league apparently didn’t want to inconvenience fans and TV broadcasters, who are ultimately the ones that pay to watch the players. So it was a financial decision. The Impact had all their limbs, hence, they were ready to go.

MLS teams are only allowed four charter flights per season (Montreal’s charter planes to and from Boston reportedly won’t count against their four for this season). The league views charter flights – a view that now seems archaic considering how many incredibly rich owners there are in the league – as a type of competitive advantage, which could sway one international or domestic signing from joining one team over another.

Thus, in 2019, everyone from Evan Bush to Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are taking commercial flights and sitting in economy class, sometimes having to split up into multiple groups on different flights to get everyone to the final destination. Most teams save their charter flights for long-haul journeys, like Montreal to Los Angeles or Vancouver to Atlanta, leaving medium and short-haul flights to the mercy of the weather or flight delays at some of North America’s busiest airports.

In 2019, it’s a shame that MLS is still operating this way, as though team owners can’t afford to fly their players around in the type of accommodations that would – over the course of a long, difficult season filled with a lot of travel – help keep players fresher by the end of the year.

Per the MLSPA, there is no binding language between the league and players in the current collective bargaining agreement that mandates a specific amount of charter flights, and the MLSPA wouldn’t stand in MLS’ way if they decided to allow teams free reign on using this type of transportation to and from games.

While events like this can happen in the other sports, having players take charter flights significantly helps both the team administration and helps avoid many of the pitfalls of flying basic economy with the rest of the country.

MLS early roundup: DC’s Rooney smashes free kick; NYCFC, Montreal win

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Three of five Wednesday matches in Major League Soccer are in the books, headlined by another fine goal from the Black-and-Red’s former Manchester United star.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 0-2 Man City ]


Columbus Crew 0-1 DC United

Wayne Rooney‘s zipped free kick was enough to give DC United a win in Columbus, which loses its third-straight match and fails to move ahead of its Wednesday visitors.

First place DC has a four-point edge on Toronto in the Eastern Conference, though the Black-and-Red have played three more matches.

The English forward hammered a waist-high shot past the outside of the wall despite Federico Higuain’s best efforts to get in the way, and it beat Zack Steffen inside the post.

Rooney now has five goals and two assists in eight matches this season.

New England Revolution 0-3 Montreal Impact

New England manager Brad Friedel would’ve been very happy with his goalkeeper and not much else, and then he would’ve changed his thoughts on Cody Cropper as well. Cropper was very busy against the Quebecois side well before 2017 Generation Adidas draft pick Shamit Shome scored his first MLS goal off a Cropper error.

Anthony Jackson-Hamel added an 85th minute goal to put the result to bed, and stroked a second in stoppage time to complete the score line.

New York City FC 1-0 Chicago Fire

A game with eight yellow cards saw just one goal, including a caution for goal scorer Valentin Castellanos. The Argentine midfielder slid onto a doorstep pass to complete a NYCFC counter attack in the win.

Montreal hopes Nigerian striker is next Bologna boom

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The Montreal Impact may have just swapped presidents, with owner Joey Saputo handing the reins over to Kevin Gilmore, but the MLS club’s owner is still the chairman of Bologna and the clubs will again be sharing resources.

And if the latest move goes as well as some of the previous ones, well, look out.

Orji Okwonkwo is joining the Impact on loan, reunited with teammate Saphir Taidir. The Algerian was one of the stars of a Montreal season like Blerim Dzemaili and Marco Di Vaio before him.

Okwonkwo, 21, won the U-17 World Cup with Nigeria in 2015, scoring in the semifinal win over Mexico.

He’d sign for Bologna, and was seemingly on the brink of stardom after scoring three Serie A goals in 10 appearances last season.

Remi Garde famously handed loads of responsibilities to youngsters while leading Lyon, including a Maxime Gonalons and a very young Alexandre Lacazette. He’d later hand increased duty to Samuel Umtiti.

While few would put Okwonkwo in that camp, his chances of growing quickly in MLS are a bit better than Serie A. Point is: Garde is willing to trust kids.

Expecting him to thrive at Taidir or Dzemaili levels is a tall ask, admittedly, and there have been a number of Bologna players who haven’t been stars in MLS (Deian Boldor, Daniele Paponi, and Andrea Pisanu, though the final two contributed more than the first).