Montreal Impact collapse on biggest stage
Any championship match where the underdog has to start their third-string goalkeeper is bound to end badly.
The Montreal Impact rode an amazing string of goalkeeper performances from Evan Bush, who won the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Golden Glove award as the top goalkeeper of the tournament, to get to the finals of the tournament. Unfortunately for the team, Bush accumulated enough yellows that he was forced to miss the second leg of the finals due to suspension.
Montreal’s back-up keeper Eric Kronberg was cup tied, due to playing with Sporting Kansas City in the competition last MLS season, which set the stage for the Impact’s newly acquired goalkeeper, Kristian Nicht, to play the biggest game of Impact history.
Nicht should not be entirely blamed for his sub-par performance. Anyone resting their hopes on a 33 year old goalkeeper who has played the majority of his recent football in the North American Soccer League – with short, but notable stints in the Bundesliga and lower German leagues – was obviously asking for too much. Montreal was out-matched on paper, even with the phenomenal Bush in net, so the team sans Bush should not have been expecting miracles.
That being said, the team only needed a scoreless draw to hoist the trophy. The game started off right for Montreal, as they scored eight minutes in thanks to some spectacular play from Ignacio Piatti, who dazzled Club America’s defense before moving the ball to Andres Romero, who followed suit before slotting home a wonderful goal.
The goal gave the Impact wiggle room, and they managed to make it to half up 2-1 on aggregate, with the vital away goal to boot. Unfortunately, everything fell off the raisl in the second hald. The Impact, whose defensive play has largely been extraordinary in CONCACAF this season, suddenly forgot how to defend. It was not the case of a lone player forgetting his mark: some defenders entirely failed to battle in the air, others let players trot unimpeded around the 18-yard box and Nicht’s goalkeeping shower why he has failed to play consistent Premier League football since lacing up for Viking FC of the Norwegian Premier League in 2008-2009.
Some shots sailed by him as his sprawling frame was reminiscent of a washed-up goalkeeper taking shots from his college buddies after a few pints at the local pubs, and years without consistent practice. Some shots went through his hands, and as any goalkeeper will tell you, those need to be caught or at the very last, parried to safety – and even the latter is sometimes embarrassing.
It would do a disservice to the second half failure of the team as a whole to single out Nicht alone, because the team let him down in the second half as well, but he does deserve some fair criticism from the match. No goalkeeper likes to lose, much less on a stage of that magnitude, but to let in a few soft goals when your team has momentum is soul-crushing.