Drogba-less Impact show their quality in Vancouver win

Even without its star Ivorian striker, Montreal offered a glimpse of its effectiveness in claiming a season-opening victory at Vancouver.

VANCOUVER – For much of the offseason, preseason, and heading into their season opener, the talk around the Montreal Impact involved a certain Didier Drogba. On Sunday in Vancouver, the Quebec-based side showed it has more to offer than the exploits of one top goal scorer this season.

A pair of goals from Ignacio Piatti underlined a superb individual performance by both the Argentine playmaker and Mauro Biello’s side, as Montreal came away with a well-deserved 3-2 away win over Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on MLS First Kick.

Piatti gave a cutting edge to a Montreal side that took a positive approach with its game plan as the visiting team. The crafty South American will likely be in for MLS Goal of the Week honors with his opening goal, as he eluded no less than four Whitecaps players to score on 19 minutes.

“It was a very good goal, maybe the best goal that I’ve ever scored,” Piatti said to reporters after Sunday’s win. “At San Lorenzo, I also scored a really [good] goal, which was also an important as well.”

Starting his first full season as Impact head coach, Biello set out a compact and efficient-looking 4-2-3-1 formation versus the Whitecaps, with newcomers Harry Shipp and Lucas Ontivero helping Piatti in successfully supporting lone striker Dominic Oduro in the Montreal attack.

“It’s positive,” Biello said. “I think it’s not easy to win away from home in this league. I think we had an excellent performance, on our part. We were able to battle a good team [in Vancouver] and I’m very satisfied with our performance. It was important for us to manage the tempo of the game. I think we were able to slow the game down when we needed to and speed it up when we had to. I think we had a good balance in our possession and to be patient enough to find those spaces and half spaces. When we did, we put them on their heels and we were able to create chances through them.”

Though admitting that the lone striker role is not natural to him, Oduro used his speed to great effect against Vancouver, forcing a calamitous defensive error between Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted and center back Kendall Waston for his conversion of Montreal’s second goal just before halftime.

“It’s not like I’m a target forward, but we had a system where I’m supposed to stretch the defense, and that’s exactly what we did,” Oduro said. “It wasn’t my job to hold on to the ball and lay it off, it was my job to find spaces in behind. Once in a while, we were able to do that. We had a strategy and it sort of worked to our advantage today.”

As for Vancouver, the anticipation of a positive result to kick off this season full of promise did not materialize, as poor defending saw the Blue and White chase the match from an early stage.

In many ways, this Whitecaps season opener played out much like last season’s when Toronto FC took its chances and the Whitecaps failed to capitalize on their opportunities. Take away a pair of set-piece goals from Waston and Jordan Harvey, Octavio Rivero was unlucky not to find the scoresheet against the Impact, especially when Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush robbed him of a chance to level matters with a brilliant save off the Uruguayan’s close-range header in the second half.

“It’s not nice when you lose games of football,” said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. “I think we gifted Montreal the win today. That’s an honest assessment. When you score two goals at home, but give three bad goals away, you don’t win games. We’ll give them the three points and we’ll move on.”