Before this their third game in the CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage the Montreal Impact players and coaches were saying that this was the biggest game of their season. Because the team’s MLS season has been so disappointing I think that it was not overstating things. All their focus has been on the Champions League games as a result. Their opponents on this evening could not say the same as they are still in the race for a playoff spot in the MLS. As a result the Red Bulls did not field their strongest side as they have some MLS games to worry about coming up. But as they say you can only play the side you face and so the Impact had to worry about themselves and what their game plan was first and foremost.
I think it is not overstating things that without Thierry Henry, Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill, and Eric Alexander in the starting line-up (or even in the line-up in the cases of Cahill and Henry) the Red Bulls were a very different team. That being said everyone in their line-up is a professional and had to be taken seriously.
Before the game veteran striker Marco Di Vaio stated that he feels that the Impact offense is in sync like never before. With the addition of designated player Ignacio Piatti the offense has been given a shot in the arm. It has become more proficient and diverse than at any point this season. That has translated into Montreal playing much better soccer over the last six games or so. The home squad, wearing their royal blue and black striped kit, was on a hot streak.
After having defeated C.D. FAS (El Salvador) twice a win would put the Impact at the top of their group with only one game left to play. It was a cool and sometimes rainy evening in Montreal and as such the stands at Saputo were not completely full, but as usual the Ultras’ continuous chanting provided plenty of volume.
It wasn’t an easy game for the Impact despite the fact that they had more quality on the pitch than their opponents. The Red Bulls played a very disciplined game and kept their shape throughout. Montreal did have a greater portion of the possession, but had trouble creating good scoring chances.
Coming out the gates probing for the game’s first goal, Montreal spent much of the first 15 minutes of the game in the Red Bull half. In the 3rd minute the Impact earned a corner kick, which was taken by Di Vaio. He played it short to Dilly Duka at the side of the Red Bull penalty area. He quickly played it back to Piatti in a central position just outside the box. His right footed shot along the ground was a powerful one that had New York’s keeper Ryan Meara beaten to right. Luck was not with Piatti on this occasion as his shot hit the post and bounced away harmlessly. Close, but no cigar.
Montreal, after lots more pressure, finally broke things open with a goal in the 16th minute. In regards to scoring it was the only goal of the game and for the third Champions League game in a row Di Vaio scored the winner. Piatti showed his talent and vision once again by finding an unmarked Di Vaio on the right edge of the New York penalty area. His looping ball was taken perfectly off his chest by Di Vaio and he managed to slide and stretch to poke the ball beyond Meara on the short side. 1-0 Montreal.
In the 26th minute central defender Matteo Ferrari was given a yellow card. Now, that is not usually something to write about, but this was his second yellow card in the Group Stage and means that he is suspended for Montreal’s next game (against the Red Bulls in New York).
After this goal Montreal tried to get a second goal and lost their shape a little allowing New York to get a couple of sniffs at their net. Evan Bush proved himself up to the task in earning his 4th straight home shutout in the Champions League. First in the 33rd minute a free kick from the left side was met by defender Richard Eckersley’s head, but Bush managed to get his hands to it diving to his left lifting the shot over the crossbar. Shortly after in the 40th minute Eric Stevenson tested Bush from distance. His cracking low shot was struck from long distance and was labeled for the far post when once again Bush dove to his left to block the shot for going in.
The 2nd half was fairly uneventful. New York midfielder Connor Lade was ejected in the 76th minute after receiving his second yellow in 6 minutes. The second was a harsh one as he held up on the tackle on Jeremy Gagnon-Laparé. New York had to play the last 14 minutes with only 10 men. This extra space on the field resulted in a couple of opportunities for a second goal for Montreal. Both involved midfielder Andres Romero, but he couldn’t cash in on either. Too bad they could not score another goal thus forcing New York to defeat them by at least 2 goals in the game in New York. Calum Mallace put it best when he said, “It would’ve been nice to get a couple more goals. It’s a victory and we’ll take the positive from that.”
Unfortunately, Di Vaio also got his second yellow card in the Group Stage, so he will also miss the game on October 22nd against New York that will probably decide who moves on. On the positive side, Montreal has earned the maximum 9 points in their 3 games and is in first place in the group. It will be for all the marbles in the return game.
Montreal’s next game is Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes at Saputo Stadium. It is their 5th game in 15 days.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Neal Brizan
Assistants – Ainsley Rochard and Clifton Garnes
-Goals: 1st Half:
16th minute: Montreal – Marco Di Vaio
-Shots On Goal: Montreal – 1
New York – 3
-Corners: Montreal – 5
New York – 4
-Man of the Match: Marco Di Vaio
-Final Score: Montreal – 1
New York – 0