It was a fitting ending to the Impact's regular season this past Sunday afternoon. On a chilly, overcast afternoon the Impact defeated the Austin Aztex 2-0 in their last regular season game. The ending was fitting because Austin opened the Impact season with a 2-0 loss in Austin and has now closed it.
It was an interesting game for the two coaches, Marc Dos Santos and Austin's Adrian Heath, as both teams no matter the result in this game were guaranteed playoff spots. The Impact would be in 6th place win or lose, so it was basically a nothing game for them. That was reflected in the fact that six regular starters were not starting this game. Midfielder David Testo was serving his one game suspension for having picked up his 5th yellow card of the season in the previous game, but I'm sure he would have been on the sidelines anyways. Along with Testo, regulars Matt Jordan, Hicham Aaboubou, Antonio Ribeiro, Philippe Billy, Nevio Pizzolitto, and Leonardo Di Lorenzo were not starting the game. Aaboubou and Ribeiro were not even dressed.
To make up for the sitting of regulars Impact fans would get the opportunity to see some relatively new faces play in the game. Fullback Wesley Charles, midfielder Anthony Le Gall, fullback Richard Pelletier, and midfielder Marco Terminesi would all be starting. Back from injury and in the starting line up was midfielder Filipe Soares and able to come in off the bench was Pierre-Rudolph Mayard. Plus back up keeper Srjdan Djekanovic got the start in nets. Djekanovic is no slouch with a 5-5-3 record and a goals against average of 1.15. He has not played since July 21st against St. Louis, so it is good to get him some action.
The game did mean something for Austin for if they won they would finish is 1st place overall and face Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals. You had to be wondering if 1st place was the best result for them because if they lost the game they would end up in 3rd place and play Montreal in the quarterfinals. Logically it would be better to just stay in Montreal until Wednesday (night of the first game) rather than travel all the way to Puerto Rico. Interesting dilemma.
On a great roll which has seen the team since the end of August save a season that had been disastrous, the Impact had won 5 of its last 6 games and during that stretch have scored 14 goals while only allowing 3. In their last game the Impact defeated Vancouver 1-0 in Vancouver with Eduardo Sebrango scoring the game's only goal. The Impact is now a team that is going into the playoffs clicking on all cylinders.
Coming into the game, Montreal had played 29 games and had a 11-11-7 record with 40 points. Austin had also played 29 games and had a sparkling 15-6-8 record with 53 points. This is a huge improvement for them over last year where they finished with only 21 points. Austin has only been in the league for two years.
Austin also did not dress of couple of its usual starters including striker Edward Johnson, their leading scoring and the 2nd overall in the league with 32 points, but two faces in the roster that will be familiar is that of Kevin Sakuda and Tyler Hemming. Kevin Sakuda previously played for the Impact and now is the Aztex captain. Hemming started the season on the Impact roster, but never really got much playing time. He has played regularly since signing with Austin and even takes most of their free kicks and corners.
Despite the "weaker" starting lineup the Impact had the first couple of chances to score in the game. In the 10th minute fullback Adam Braz, who was wearing the captain's armband with Pizzolitto out of the lineup, played one in to the box from the right side finding Sebrango alone at the penalty spot, but he completely muffed his shot and it rolled harmlessly over the end line. Another good chance came in the 19th minute when Terminesi crossed the ball into the box to Ali Gerba, the team's leading scorer with 9 goals, who on a second attempt curled a left footed shot just over the crossbar.
The Impact broke the scoreless tie at the 26 minute mark on a nice goal by the speedy Le Gall. He timed his run perfectly to beat the Austin offside trap and Patrick Leduc found him with a long ball that sent Le Gall in alone on Aztex keeper Miguel Gallardo. Using the outside of his right foot he neatly curved the ball past the helpless keeper. Le Gall had notched his first goal of the campaign and put his team ahead 1-0.
After the goal another thing happened that changed the allure of the game completely. Defender Wesley Charles, a rather imposing player, went to ground tackling the speedy Randi Patterson and Patterson did not like it so he gave Charles a boot to the face. He received a red card on the play and will be suspended for at least the first game of the quarterfinals. Patterson's red card also meant that the Aztex would also have to play one man short for the final 60 minutes of the game making it harder for them to mount a comeback.
With the outcome of the game pretty much determined by the fact that Austin could not mount much of an attack due to the fact that they were one man short the rest of the game kind of dragged on. Especially in the 2nd half when the Impact were pretty much just interested in getting through the remaining 45 minutes with no one getting hurt.
Plenty of subs were made by the Impact with Gerba, Sebrango, Tony Donatelli, Adam Braz, and Terminesi going out and Di Lorenzo, Rocco Placentino, Billy, Mayard, and Reda Agourram coming on. The fact that the Impact made their five allowed substitutions almost came back to bite them on the bum as defender Pelletier suffered a charleyhorse and they could not sub a man in as they had used all five already. No matter as Mayard just moved back to the fullback position and the two teams played ten versus ten for the final 20 minutes of the game.
Substitute Placentino salted away the game in the 87th minute with one of the nicer goals of the season. He scored off a spectacular half volley from a cross from Di Lorenzo. This was the third goal of the season for the much maligned and scapegoated player and it was also Di Lorenzo's 7th assist of the season establishing a new career mark for himself.
Montreal with the win will play this same Austin team in the 1st round of the playoffs. It should be interesting when the teams have their full lineups in. Playoff tickets for Wednesday's match against Austin are already on sale, so act quickly.
-On-Field Officials: Referee: John Oliva
Linesmen: Martin Reid and John Gray
-Goals: 1st Half:
26th minute – Montreal – Anthony Le Gall assisted by Patrick Leduc
87th minute – Montreal – Rocco Placentino assisted by Leonardo Di Lorenzo
-Cards: 1st Half:
27th minute – Montreal – Anthony Le Gall – yellow
29th minute – Austin – Randi Patterson – red
42nd minute – Montreal – Ali Gerba – yellow
90th minute – Montreal – Pierre-Rudolph Mayard – yellow
-Shots: Montreal: 9
-Saves: Montreal: 3
-Corners: Montreal: 3
-Setanta Man of the Match: Anthony Le Gall
-Final Score: Montreal: 2