After the last meeting in July where New York City FC won, Montreal Impact were keen for payback, due to the fact that NYCFC usually leaves the Talent Energy Stadium with three points in their bag (the previous two: 0-1 and 1-3). This time is something changed and only a draw accomplished, lately NYCFC is in a bad shape though.
Montreal Impact and New York City FC produced a very interesting draw. NYCFC played the dominant side, while Montreal focused on their counters. Although the guests had issues to create chances, they did take the lead, however, it did not last long because a few minutes later Montreal came to even it up. And this was just the sum of the first half, so let’s see how and why happened in this battle from a tactical point of view.
You might be thinking when you see the line-ups that both teams favouring some kind of possession-based style due to the fact that both have three centre-midfielder, however only Torrent’s side tends to play in that way. Impact approach the game with a reactive manner in spite of what the line-up suggests. Therefore the most of the time forming a 4-4-2 with Silva dropping to the right, but truth to be told, this was not the regular 4-4-2, because it had some own flavour. It was a bit asymmetric with the three CM maintained a close distance to each other. This, of course, left the wings unoccupied, but with Silva’s dropping movement allowed them to cover the right wing.
This means that the midfield line shifted a bit to the right, while the left was only covered occasionally by Piatti. Although it seems dangerous it was not, because NYCFC was the habit to attack the left side, therefore it was useful that the Montreal’s formation is also strong there.
NYCFC formation also has some speciality, because when they got the ball they transformed into a 3-man defence. Whilst the full-backs pushed up – thus they also transformed into wingbacks – Ring dropped between Chanot and Callens in order to help the build-up.
Montreal Impact’s pressing scheme and counter-attacking strategy
So when NYCFC did not have struggles in the deep build-up due to the manner that Montreal took for this match. They formed a medium block which operated with midfield press, although it occurred a few times when they moved to high press. During the high press, they applied a man to man coverage. As you may see, everyone had a unique target that had to be marking. The front three: Piatti, Amarikwa and Silva focused on the opponent’s first line (Chanot, Ring, Callens).
In some occasions, Montreal did not has the perfect structure during the press as the image shown above. Thus in these situations, NYCFC had a numerical superiority with the three at the back against Piatti and Amarikwa. However, in spite of the advantage, NYCFC failed to progress up on the pitch. Johnson chose to volleys in these situations which caused the lost balls.
So, most of the time Montreal’s front two maintained a centre positioned fairly close to each other and with low intention to press the opponent. However, when NYCFC progressed up in the halfspaces the ball-sided forward shifting toward the ball-carrier and pressed the opponent. Mostly, this happened between Callens and Amarikwa, like the image shown below.
With the moderate pressing on the ball carrier and the lack of real passing options caused some trouble for the guests because it forced them to risky passes.
This low percentage passes what Montreal was looking for in order to retain in possession near to the halfway line and quickly transitioned into an attack. After they got the ball the first target to get the to Piatti because he could utilise the ability to create chances for the team-mates through long balls or dribbles. Speaking of dribbling, he had the most in this match with four successful attempts.
The equalising goal
The second goal of this match came from a pattern. There were some occasions when Piatti or others made a diagonal pass towards the opponent’s weak side. The three midfielders did not allow for NYCFC for covering the pitch in width, therefore, a pass to the other side of the pitch was quite effective.
Sagna reached and collected the ball and after a quick combination at the edge of the penalty box, they created a shooting opportunity which ended with Azira’s equalising goal.
Flaws in Montreal’s defence and the guests taking the lead
Despite NYCFC had a trouble to create chances and reach the opponent’s penalty box, there were some potential that they could rely on more than they did.
First of all, Montreal midfielders and Silva tend to cover the centre and the right halfspace. Therefore this asymmetric shape sometimes caused an unoccupied space.
Torrent’s side did not take advantage of it though (as the dashed arrows indicated).
Moreover, there were a few instances, when the guests tried to utilised the space that they found on the right wing. With a vertical pass from the defender towards Moralez, they could outplay the opponent’s defensive structure. Usually, Molarez dropped in the right half space for a quick layoff towards Tinnerholm who could progress up in near to the sideline. However, only occasionally found this flaw of Montreal. For instance, the situation below was not effective due to the lack of speed. After the layoff, Tinnerholm was way too slow thus Piatti had time to drop back and stop him. Nevertheless, this was a superb tool, which is worth to take advantage of it, so it was unfortunate that NYCFC did not realise that.
And lastly, the situation where the leading goal occurred. After the first ten minutes, Montreal made a slight modification on the own formation. Piette dropped a bit deeper and maintained a position between the two lines in order to mark Villa, therefore Piette theoretically would able to cut off the threaten of Villa’s dropping movement.
However, in the 17th minutes, he could not prevent to Villa getting the ball. In addition, there was a huge gap in the middle of the Montreal’s midfield line which provided NYCFC with the open passing lane towards Villa. The gap made by the two factors. Firstly, Piette dropped deeper, thus it was less player in the midfield line. Secondly, NYCFC did a good job in manipulation the opponent with dragging Azira away.
In the second 45 minutes, the game turned into a bit hectic due to both sides wanted to win the match. While the home side made several counter-attacks and created chances, the guests struggled to breakthrough the opponent’s defence.
However, both coaches made a change on their team. In the New York City FC formation switched to four-man defence during the build-up, therefore Ring pushed a bit higher. Occasionally, he dropped between the centre-backs as he did in the first half though.
Remi Garde also made a slight adjustment in their formation. Against the ball, Piatti and Silva dropped to the midfield line in order to shape a 4-5-1 formation. Amarikwa formed alone the last line and his major role was to marking Ring. Thus force the opponent to use other ways to progress.
Due to the speedy game, both teams found more spaces what they could penetrate, therefore, for example, NYCFC was able to outplay the midfield much easier and much quicker than they did in the first half. So in this period of the game, Montreal was not able to prevent the progression in the midfield. However, they dropped deeper and formed a narrow low block with a congested middle. This time that was the major trouble for the guests.
In one hand, NYCFC gained space in the upper part of the opponent’s half and also in the wings. On the other hand, they struggled to break this defence, due to the fact that most of their player positioned in the middle, like Villa. Thus they could not get them to involve in the game.
As the images shown below, all these players were marked tightly and some of them blocked by a cover shadow. In the first situation, Azira covered Matarrita and Piette block the passing option towards Berger.
Domenec Torrent had a rough time since he took over the coach position after Patrick Vieira moved to Europe. Their last six matched ended up with 3 losses and 3 draws which caused dropping to the third position in the Eastern Conference and a big gap between them and the city rival, New York Red Bull and Atlanta United. Therefore they need to fix their problems and start to catch up with the opponents.
Despite Montreal is in a good streak two win and a draw in the last three games, but they definitely have to get better at the finishing. They had 15 shots while only the exact same amount of shots went on target as NYCFC had, four. Although they made a great job in preventing the opponent to use their strengths.