If you blinked, you may have missed that the Montreal Impact have fallen from their high horse of first place and dropped all the way to fifth. It all happened rather suddenly. After starting out the season so strongly, winning four of their first six, the Impact have since managed to win zero games in their last six.
With two draws and four losses, it is beginning to look bleak for the Impact, who have taken on the trend of this MLS season and become rather unpredictable.
However, that being said, it is almost too easy to diagnose where the Impact have gone wrong. Mauro Biello rode a huge wave of momentum into the MLS Cup playoffs last season, with Didier Drogba being a key player. This year was supposed to be a continuation of that effort. They were supposed to keep on winning all season long.
It looked like they were going to. With a front four of Ignacio Piatti, Dominic Oduro, Harry Shipp and Didier Drogba, there really wasn’t anything the Impact couldn’t do offensively. Then, considering that Laurent Ciman and Victor Cabrera were anchoring the defense, this Montreal team was rounded out. A top tier defense with a powerful, fast offense.
But it’s all gone horribly wrong, and we are here to tell you why. Mauro Biello deserves credit for his continued attempts to innovate this team into what they were at the start of the season. But he has neglected one huge piece. When Piatti plays centrally, as the No. 10, the Impact win. When he doesn’t play centrally, they don’t.
Here’s the proof: The Impact have grossed 12 points with a 4-0-2 record when Piatti is the center piece. In those games they have scored ten and surrendered seven. When Piatti does not play centrally and is forced out wide, the Impact are winless, grossing just five points with an 0-5-2 record. Goal-wise, they have scored nine and surrendered eleven.
I understand why Biello made the change. When Piatti starts centrally, he tends to drift left anyway. It’s his favored side. But that doesn’t mean that he needs to be forced left. He needs that central role to maintain the freedom that made this Impact attack so potent.
Biello has just been too quick to change. The Impact won two convincing games to start the year, putting in an aggregate score of 6-2. Piatti was the early front runner for MVP in those two matches. But one bad outing in their third match of the season against FC Dallas and Biello moved Piatti out wide. They lost the following match.
So Biello brought him back. They wont two more in a row – again convincingly – by a combined score of 4-1. Then again, Piatti had one bad match against Toronto and he moved him back out wide. They have’t won since. Biello just won’t stick with Piatti in the middle and it’s a mystery as to why.
Piatti is going to score no matter where they put him. But his impact is so much greater when he is the central cog of the offense, not a peripheral weapon. No one else can run this offense like Piatti can, and that has been proven time and again over this winless streak. Harry Shipp can’t do it. Johan Venegas can’t do it. Piatti can.
The numbers speak for themselves. Put Piatti in the middle of the offensive web and let the team flourish.