On a beautiful evening that was perfect for soccer, the Impact was 1 point out of 1st place in the East sitting in 3rd. A victory and Montreal would jump ahead of the New York Red Bulls and Sporting K.C. The game was also an important one in that their opposition was breathing down their necks in the standings. Montreal had 38 points with their opponents Houston just behind them with 36 points. In other words, this was an important match at this juncture in the season.
Coach Marco Schallibaum was not on the sidelines for the 4th time this season as he had received a 2 game suspension from the League for leaving his technical area in the game against D.C. United. He has some self-control issues Mr. Schallibaum. Assistant coach Mauro Biello would once again assume the head coach position and he was looking for his first victory in 4 games.
After a 1-0 defeat in the CONCACAF Champions League last Wednesday with very few regulars in the line-up, the home side was looking to get back to winning. The starting line-up was the same as faced D.C. United one week prior. They took the field in their blue and black vertical striped 3rd uniform in front a packed house at Saputo Stadium.
In the 5th minute there was almost a gaff by Montreal that allowed Houston to take the early lead. Miscommunication between central defender Matteo Ferrari and keeper Troy Perkins allowed Houston striker Will Bruin a superb chance. Bruin really should have done better as he did not score.
Pretty much from that point on Montreal dominated the game. They controlled possession and created scoring chances. In the 11th minute Ferrari almost atoned for his misplay in the most concrete way when he got his head on the end of a Justin Mapp corner. It seemed it was going into the left side of the net when it was cleared off the line by Dynamo fullback Kofi Sarkodie.
All game long, but especially in the 1st half Mapp was a thorn in the collective Dynamo’s side. Not surprising since Mapp has been the Impact’s most consistent player this season. In this game much of the Impact offense seemed to come through him and on more than one occasion he would take the ball down the right side and then cut into the middle onto his preferred left foot creating good scoring chances for himself or his teammates. An example of this was in the 14th minute when Hassoun Camara played a ball to him. Mapp carried it up the right side and then cut into the middle at the top of the 18 yard box. He struck a hard left footed shot that rang off the crossbar. Classic Justin Mapp. Though he did not score any goals he was responsible for a large part of the Montreal offense.
To show how important the game was for both sides a little scuffle broke out in the 25th minute after a foul by Montreal’s Hernan Bernadello. Houston’s Adam Moffat and Jermaine Taylor got into “discussions” with Montreal’s Marco Di Vaio and Camara.
A big reason for Montreal’s success was that they dominated in the midfield. Holding midfielders Patrice Bernier and Bernadello created plenty of turnovers. The veteran central defender Alessandro Nesta also had a strong game and was there to clean up the danger any time he was called upon.
Towards the end of the 1st half Montreal struck for 2 quick goals. With his 14th goal of the campaign Marco Di Vaio moved into a 1st place tie for the leading scorer in the MLS. His goal came in the 35th minute and was started by Jeb Brovsky who played the ball across to Mapp. Mapp found Di Vaio with a pass. Di Vaio cut inside completing fooling the man marking him, Corey Ashe. He then left footed the ball into the far side of the net. It was a perfect finish.
A mere 2 minutes later midfielder Felipe doubled the home team’s lead. This time Bernadello started off the scoring play by finding Di Vaio open on the right side. He carried the ball into the 18 yard box. When he fumbled with the ball Mapp was there to collect it and he deftly looped the ball across the box to the Brazilian. Standing over the ball, Felipe froze the defender in front of him then curled a shot perfectly into the far side of the net just inside the post. It was a great shot and gave Montreal a 2-0 lead going into the halftime break.
The 1st half was Montreal’s best half of soccer in a long time. Dominant with very few missteps. Playing that way there is not many a team that would be able to deal with the Impact. Di Vaio was finishing, Mapp was causing havoc, Bernadello and Bermier were creating turn overs and restarting the attack, Nesta’s legs seemed fresher than they had in a while, and keeper Perkins made a couple of fine saves to perserve his clean sheet.
In the 2nd half the Impact struck for 3 more goals. The kill shot came in the 57th minute when Brovsky notched his 2nd goal of the season of a corner kick. The corner by Bernadello deflected off a Bruin right to the foot of the unmarked Brovsky, who just had to redirect it into the empty net. The crowd was delighted, but the goal seemed to completely destroy what was left of the Houston spirit. The Brovsky goal was followed by another by Di Vaio (moving him into 1st place in the scoring race) in the 70th minute and then the 1st of the season for substitute Andrea Pisanu in the 90th minute.
Houston keeper Tally Hall had a good game which is a strange thing to say about someone who let 5 goals in. But he did. Hall made several good saves or it could have been even more of a pummeling. He was alone when it came to strong play on the Houston side. They might have been tired due to their midweek Champions League game in Haiti, but the Impact had also made a long distance trip, so it cannot be chalked up as the reason for their poor play.
This was the first time in the MLS in which Montreal won by 5 goals. On top of that Houston is normally a team that does not surrender many goals. In other words this victory in this dominant a manner was not to be expected. Montreal (12-7-5) moved into 1st place in the East with 41 points. It was the first time for them to be in 1st place since the beginning of July.
With 10 games left in the regular season, the next two games for Montreal will be on the road starting off with Philadelphia on Saturday. Then it is on to New England for a game against the Revolution.
-Referee: Hilario Grajeda
-Goals: 1st Half:
35th minute: Montreal – Marco Di Vaio assisted by Justin Mapp
37th minute: Montreal – Felipe assisted by Justin Mapp
58th minute: Montreal – Jeb Brovsky
70th minute: Montreal – Marco Di Vaio assisted by Patrice Bernier
90th minute: Montreal – Andrea Pisanu assisted by Felipe
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 8
Houston – 5
-Corners: Montreal – 7
Houston – 7
-Man of the Match: Marco Di Vaio – Montreal
-Attendance: 20,801 (sold out)
-Final Score: Montreal – 5
Houston – 0