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Butler: Lessons learned by Impact to be applied in Houston

Noel Butler
3/14/2014 6:27:04 PM
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Ninety minutes doesn't make a season. Just ask last season's Supporters Shield winners, the New York Red Bulls, who were resoundingly defeated last weekend by a rampant Vancouver Whitecaps in a match which produced two contenders for MLS Goal of the Week from Sebastian Fernandez and Pedro Morales.

Another of those contenders was a slice of set piece magic from FC Dallas playmaker, Mauro Diaz, which after the final whistle blew, ended up the difference-maker as the Montreal Impact kicked their season off on the wrong side of a five-goal thriller after taking a deserved lead at Toyota Stadium last Saturday night. This for a club which has built its foundation on taking the lead and parking the bus since the time Jose Mourinho was working as a translator for Sir Bobby Robson at Barcelona.

Conceding goals in threes, though, was a recurring theme in the preseason for the Impact.

For those who believe preseason matches don't really matter, let's not bother having them and, while we're at it, please scrap all those preseason tournaments. There was no connection whatsoever with the Columbus Crew putting four past the 2013 MLS Cup champion Sporting KC in the final of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic and taking all that confidence and Orlando momentum into D.C. to start their season last Saturday with a 3-0 rout of United. 

Growing a cohesive defensive unit and mindset was a significant ingredient as the Impact's training camp progressed. With that in mind, it was rather baffling that in his first match as gaffer, Frank Klopas strayed from that blueprint and morphed into the Tinkerman. Pre-game, I don't suspect that anybody would have predicted that such an unacquainted defence would have taken the pitch in Dallas.

Having not played a minute in preseason, it was hardly surprising that Jeb Brovsky didn't display his usual reliable, risk-averse self. And when will the Impact finally realize the liability that is Hassoun Camara in a central role?

As it's only in adversity or defeat that one learns, the Impact head across the state with plenty learned in Dallas to be applied when the Impact return to the scene of that playoff crime in Houston on Saturday night.   

As geography plays a significant part in growing rivalries across planet futbol, who'd have thought MLS's 19th franchise would have developed a bitter rivalry with a club they don't even share the same time zone with? The origins for which we must thank Dominic Kinnear and Jesse Marsch. The Dynamo's head coach for first leaving him unprotected in the Expansion Draft and the Impact's original head coach for having the fortitude to rise to the rostrum at the Impact's downtown offices back on November 23, 2011 and, with his first selection, utter those infamous words, "Brian Ching."

Whether Quebec native and Canadian international defender Andre Hainault was the real target is still the stuff of debate, but what is certain is that these two clubs don't much care for each other with last year's Halloween Eve playoff horrors merely the icing on the cake.

After embarrassing the Dynamo in sticking five past them late last summer at Saputo Stadium, Houston avenged that by first beating the Impact in the return encounter in early October and twisted the knife during the first round of the playoffs.

Houston boasts one of the best home records in all of Major League Soccer these recent seasons and it is going to take a supreme team effort for the Impact to get anything from the match. Having spent the entire week down in Texas will have allowed them for the perfect preparation.

No club wants to start its season 0-2 and the Impact will not want any additional pressures heading into their Olympic Stadium home opener March 22 against the Seattle Sounders.

Nor will Klopas want to be explaining himself as he makes his Montreal bow. Houston has not been kind  to the ex-Fire head coach, where he sports a solitary win from seven matches.

Klopas will want a repeat performance from Justin Mapp, who was scintillating in Dallas. New DP Hernan Bernadello will have to last the 90 minutes. Splendid early on orchestrating the attacks, the 27-year old Argentine physically and mentally tired as the game wore on. 

How refreshing it would have been for Impact management and faithful alike that Andrew Wenger finally displayed the type of football through the 90 minutes we all know he is capable of? A well taken goal, following expert delivery from Felipe on the flank, was thoroughly deserved. The 2012 SuperDraft first-overall pick will be brimming with confidence when he hits the pitch Saturday night. It is vital he utilizes that additional injection of adrenaline in a positive manner.

Individually and as a team, the Impact cannot allow any tension get to them. Greater concentration and discipline were the key messages to emerge from the time training in Texas.

The Impact didn't gain any points in Dallas, but after a thoroughly entertaining 90 minutes of football, they certainly gained many new admirers back in La Belle Province as they tuned into the action as an appetizer to the Habs' late night west coast encounter.  

Sanna Nyassi, who was the Impact's best player to emerge from training camp and scored last week's opener, will be missed.

Klopas will tinker with his starting XI.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca 
@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Noel Butler

Noel Butler


Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/TheSoccerNoel and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.

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