What has struck me early on in this 2013 MLS season is that the Montreal Impact is a team of character. No matter what they are up against be it injuries, poor officiating or being down going into the 2nd half of play they seem to be able to keep their focus and claw their way back into games. This is very different from the team last season – at least in the first half of last season. Plenty of the praise has to go to the veteran Italian presence on the Impact. Players like Alessandro Nesta, Matteo Ferrari and Marco Di Vaio have given a sense of confidence having been through almost everything in their stellar careers. The younger players on the Impact like Jeb Brosky, Andrew Wenger and Felipe know they can turn to these men when the times get tough.
Times were tough for Montreal in their game against the strong Sporting KC side. First of all it was Montreal’s 3rd game in 7 days. They were playing a team only 1 point behind them in the standings (Montreal was 2nd in the East with KC just behind them in 3rd) that had easily handled them earlier in the season at Saputo Stadium 2-0. They were playing a game on the road. They were coming off an emotional game on Wednesday. Finally the refereeing was not the greatest. All that and Montreal managed to come out of the game with a well-deserved 2-1 win.
Coach Marco Schallibaum, probably because of how much Montreal played this week, tinkered with his starting line-up and his formation. Montreal was back in their 4-2-3-1 formation from last season playing with just Di Vaio up front. Jeb Brovsky got some well-earned time off with his first time not starting a game this season. Dennis Iapichino took his place as the left fullback. Sanna Nyassi got a rare start in the midfield in place of Andres Romero. Collen Warner was also making a rare start alongside Patrice Bernier as the holding midfielders. This allowed Felipe to play a supporting role behind Di Vaio, who he showed great chemistry with last season.
Early on in the game you could tell that Montreal’s defensive strategy was to remain compact in defensive situations. Offensively they were going to try to use Nyassi’s speed as a weapon. It seemed to be working as early on over the first 15 minutes of the game Montreal dominated when it came to winning 50/50 balls.
In the 17th minute Montreal got their first good scoring chance when the Di Vaio-Felipe tandem began to work their magic. Di Vaio this time was the set-up man when he put a great pass to Felipe. KC keeper Jimmy Nielsen was able to make a good save getting his hand on it. Felipe went in alone on the KC keeper. Late in the 1st half, the lads wearing their lucky royal blue and black striped strips got another fantastic scoring chance and again it was courtesy of Di Vaio and Felipe. In the 39th minute Felipe was once again sent in along by Di Vaio. Felipe beat Nielsen only to have some bad luck when his shot hit the post to the left of the KC keeper. It came back out to Felipe who poked the ball square to Di Vaio. It seemed like a sure goal with only the empty net in front of him, but the Italian striker must have been surprised to have the ball at his feet because he put the ball wide of the right post.
There was 2 minutes added to the 1st half, which is not something I would usually tell you, but in this case it is significant. In the 45th +1 minute one of the linesmen made a horrible call. A horrible call that meant a penalty shot against the Impact. Just outside the Montreal 18 yard box central fullback Alessandro Nesta tugged a bit on KC striker Claudio Bieler’s shirt. He went down and the linesman called the penalty shot. It was absolutely the wrong call and when Bieler scored on a low hard shot to Perkins’ right it seemed like all the luck was against Montreal. This was Bieler’s 7th goal of the campaign.
Now the last time that Montreal played KC Schallibaum tossed some water at the 4th official and was given a red card then subsequently suspended for a game. Different date same result when Schallibaum, incensed over the penalty shot call, went after the officials heading into the dressing rooms for half time. He was issued a red card and will face another suspension. Assistant coach Mauro Biello took over the head coaching duties for the rest of the game.
They always say that early and late goals in any sport are back breakers and this seemed to hold true on this evening. Nyassi tied up the game just after the 2nd half started. After Felipe was fouled hard at the end line by Mechack Jerome (who was issued a yellow card for the challenge) in the 46th minute Bernier took the ensuing free kick. The ball bounced around in the KC 18 yard box then it came to Nyassi at the top of the box. He fired one into the bottom right of the KC net.
A mere 6 minutes later Warner picked a great time to notch his 1st goal in the MLS. It was another free kick for the Impact from 30 yards out taken by Bernier. It was partially cleared, but the ball kept bouncing around. The KC defence misplayed the ball and Warner made no mistake with his low shot past the outstretched Nielsen.
That was all the scoring in the game though it was not an uneventful remaining 41 minutes. The referee once again put Montreal in a precarious position. In the game’s 74th minute a red car was issued to Nesta. Don’t get me wrong, he deserved it. Under no circumstances is it okay to head butt. Nesta did attempt to head butt Bieler. What was wrong is that none of the four officials saw that it was in retaliation to a kick at Nesta’s head when he was on the ground. Another error that forced Montreal to play one man down with 10 players for the remaining 20 minutes (4 minutes were added on to the normal 90).
The Impact just hung on and was simply defending for the rest of the game. KC did have a couple of good scoring chances with the best being in the 90th + 4th minute. Striker Kei Kamara, back from a short replacement stint in the EPL with Norwich City, first timed, despite the fact that he had time to settle the ball, a shot from 15 yards out with the inside of his right foot. It went wide. Montreal was able to hang on until the final whistle.
With the win combined with a Vancouver defeat of New York, Montreal found themselves back in 1st place in the East with a couple of games in hand. It was also Montreal’s 3rd road victory of the season already more than all of last season.
Due to World Cup qualifying games the MLS schedule is going through a break. Montreal, after a hectic 7 days, is only going to play their next game on June 15 against the Columbus Crew in Columbus. Our road warriors look to keep their good road play going.
-Referee: Armando Villareal
45th + 1 minute: KC – (ps) Claudio Bieler
47th minute: Montreal – Sanna Nyassi
53rd minute: Montreal – Collen Warner
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 2
KC – 6
-Corners: Montreal – 3
KC – 8
-Player of the Game: Felipe
-Final Score: Montreal – 2
KC – 1