Montreal Impact went into the game looking for their first points. After an encouraging start earlier this year, Thierry Henry’s team that had suffered two defeats before facing DC United and in the last five matches found themselves with the balance in their favour with two wins, two draws and one defeat knew that their only chance of having any hope of advancing in the tournament was to win.
In this tactical analysis, we will try to show the change of formation and functions that your players made while in possession of the ball or without it.
DC United arrived with two draws in this MLS is Back Tournament and also with the need to win to advance to the next phase. Without two of their attacking reinforcements for this tournament, the Peruvian Edison Flores, who was rumoured to have arrived at La Liga this semester, and the Norwegian Ola Kamara, a complicated game was on the horizon for this team that did not know how to win this tournament.
In the last match of group C, the DC United was more likely to qualify since the victory assured them a place as the best third place, while the Montreal Impact team not only required the win but a combination of results to advance in the tournament, went to this match to keep their goal at zero and from this try to win the match.
DC United played in the same formation used in the previous match against the New England Revolution. In goal Bill Hamid who has been with the same team for 10 years. The defence is formed with four players, with Frédéric Brillant and Steve Birnbaum as central defenders and two wings-back, on the right side Chris Odoi-Atsem and the left side Joseph Mora. In the midfield Junior Moreno with Rusell Canouse in the centre having by the sides the ex of Velez Sarsfield of Argentina Yamil Asad and Julian Gressel. In the front of the attack Felipe Martins and Ulises Segura.
For its part, the Montreal Impact made changes in training. From their usual 5-4-1 tactical scheme since Henry’s arrival, a modification was introduced tonight, with a 4-3-3. Clément Diop remains in goal, with Luis Blinks and Rod Fanni in central defence with two wings-back, Zachary Brault-Guillard on the right and Jorge Corrales on the left. In midfield, he used former Tottenham Hotspur pivot Victor Wanyama accompanied by Samuel Piette and Saphir Taïder. In the attack it looked for with three players to have greater presence within the rival area, with the speed of Rommel Quioto who in this tournament had managed to score a single goal and that unlike the previous matches now plays placed by the right side accompanied by the Spanish Bojan Krkic who had a passage by important equipment like AC Milan in the Serie A and Barcelona, leaving in the centre of the attack to Maximiliano Urruti who arrived at the match without goals scored.
Montreal Impact, faithful to their custom, started the game with good possession of the ball, taking advantage of the fact that their opponents were waiting just in front of the midfield. With the wings-back always positioned close to the sides allowing the two midfielders Piette and Taïder to move freely behind the forwards without finding clarity to penetrate the DC United defence.
The following image shows how that Montreal Impact adds players to the attack.
The wings-back Corrales and Brault-Guillard keeping the width and the three players in the front line, it is Krkic who has more freedom to move.
We mentioned at the beginning of this analysis the need for both teams to seek victory, but above all, finding a better offensive performance by Montreal Impact, led them to send out a more aggressive team with players with offensive characteristics.
The coach dispensed with a central defender and placed an extra forward in the starting lineup. This move allowed him to keep at least three players inside the opponent’s box during the first half, so he found space and time to shoot from medium distance, as you can see in the following picture.
The three forwards keep six DC United players inside their box, allowing pivot Wanyama to shoot freely very close to the area.
DC United, who had good control of the ball in the first few minutes of the match, gradually gave way to their opponents until they defended in their half. However, in those first minutes, they managed to generate some dangerous runs into the box.
In the following image, you can see the line of four Montreal Impact defenders confused by the movements of the midfielder Asad who plays completely closed leaving the whole side to his left wing-back, as well as the forward Felipe Martins who moves away from the defenders to receive the ball between the lines.
A single-player (Martins) with his movement in depth drags the whole rival defensive line, making Segura without the mark of any of the central defenders and missing a clear goal option.
Changes by necessity
For the second half, DC United makes an early change with the entry of Kevin Paredes, who is positioned on the left side of midfield, the team wins in attack due to the speed and offensive characteristics of this player.
The mobility of the forwards continued to create many problems in the opposition’s defensive line, as can be seen in the image below. In a movement of attraction towards the side, Segura manages to isolate himself and in a quick combination with midfielder Asad, he appears in a situation of numerical superiority having two teammates in position to receive the ball. However, he decides to shoot and the ball is rejected by goalkeeper Diop.
However, the real change is made with the positioning of their wings-back, which gives more depth to the attack and allows the midfielders to move closer to the forwards.
In the image below, you can see the two wings playing close to the sides and in the middle the presence of the two centre-forwards and the midfielders.
All the lines of the team are positioned in the rival field, managing to recover the defensive rejects. This allowed them to have the possession of the ball in the opponent field placing a greater number of players in the attacking zone.
Montreal Impact, on the other hand, places its lines a few meters behind, with the idea of being able to counterattack. Unlike in the first half when they were looking for a combined attack trying to reach the opponent’s area, for this second half his tactics changed, their best way to create dangerous plays was through long passes looking for the speed of their forwards.
In the following picture, you can see how the Montreal Impact with most of their players in their field, recover a ball and the pivot Wanyama makes a long pass looking to take advantage of the gap created in the rival defence.
Out of possession
DC United started the match by putting pressure on the opponents, trying to stop their opponent’s possession of the ball, during the first 20 minutes it worked perfectly, however from that moment on they positioned their lines in their field and gave ground to the Montreal Impact, a situation that they would take advantage of later on.
Below are two images where you can see the initial approach with the pressure in the field and the change in defensive tactics to position further back the defensive lines.
When Montreal Impact didn’t have control of the ball, they settled with two lines of four players, making Urruti a midfielder on the right side and Taïder on the left, leaving Krkic and Quioto at the front.
With their two defensive lines closing spaces, the team keeps a good pressing on their field not allowing the elaboration of DC United’s offensive play as we see in the picture below.
In the second half and with the score against, the position of DC United changes, returning to the initial pressing to recover the ball closer to the rival goal.
Meanwhile, Montreal Impact maintains the defensive order with its two lines folded and closing interior spaces forcing DC United’s attacks to the sides.
Set-pieces make the difference
It was the set-pieces that brought the best offensive results for Montreal Impact. And this is nothing new, just remember that during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, 49 per cent of the goals were scored through set-pieces. This time the only goal of the game came from such a move.
In the following picture, you can see the short pass made by the Montreal Impact players, attracting two defensive players creating the free space for Taïder to have the time to control the ball.
With the necessary space and time, Taïder makes a strong shot from medium distance whose trajectory is deviated on the way and ends up inside the goal.
It is on another set-piece that the Montreal Impact almost managed to score their second goal. In a throw-in, the ball reaches Urruti, who manages to evade the defender inside the area and with a strong shot towards the far post, manages to beat the goalkeeper’s throw but the ball hits the post and does not enter.
In a very close match in which there were few but clear opportunities in both goals, it was set-pieces that ended up defining the result. Both teams had modest participation in the tournament and showed the reason for their poor results.
DC United had not been able to find the right balance, especially in terms of control of the game, and had lost a two-goal lead in their first match, conceding a total of four goals in their three matches. These numbers are worth leaving the tournament without a win.
For their part, Montreal Impact, as we mentioned earlier in this analysis, had started with a lineup of three central defenders and two wing-backs in their last five matches, this time with a line of four defenders who performed well and, above all, kept a clean sheet, a situation that had been a priority for the team.
This result may allow Henry’s team to advance to the next phase as long as some results are combined. If he does manage to advance he will have the opportunity to confirm the improvement in the defensive sector and to know if this line of four defenders is the one his coach was looking for in his tactical scheme.