The afternoon after one Montreal professional team showed a complete lack of heart another demonstrated their character by playing their hearts out during a friendly match. Despite the fact that the Impact have an extremely busy month of May Coach Marc Dos Santos told everyone that his club was going to take the match very seriously. Dos Santos said that his team plays to win every game they participate in.
Italian Serie A club Fiorentina was in town Sunday afternoon to play a match against the Montreal Impact at Saputo Stadium. Due to large Italian population in Montreal who are soccer fans there was support aplenty for the visitors. There were plenty of purple shirts in the crowd of 8,094 on this beautiful spring afternoon. That didn't seem to affect the home side as they played a strong match. It was such a strong effort that it is not outrageous to say that they deserved a victory on this day.
Seemingly aware of what this game meant to certain members of his squad, Coach Dos Santos inserted 4 players of Italian heritage into his starting line-up. Rocco Placentino, Tony Donatelli, Nevio Pizzolitto, and Stefano Pesoli all began the game which must have been a thrill for them.
The Impact played such a strong 1st half that they really should have been up 3-0 rather than the actual 1-0 lead they enjoyed. Amazingly it was they who enjoyed the majority of ball possession in the 1st half. They started off quickly. 19-year-old midfielder Reda Agourram put his mark on the game in a big way when in the 8th minute he scored the first goal. On this one play he showed his speed, skill and strength. Chasing after Fiorentina defender Cesare Natali, Agourram muscled him off the ball, beat Brazilian defender Felipe Felipe one-on-one and then wasted no time lashing the ball beyond the stunned keeper, Sébastien Frey.
Not happy with a 1-0 lead, the Impact kept up the offensive pressure on Fiorentina. Lone striker Eduardo Sebrango found himself alone behind the Fiorentina defence courtesy of a well-timed Tony Donatelli pass and alone against Frey in the 25th minute. The veteran French goaltender Frey got the better of Sebrango and was able to make the save. It was a poor shot by Sebrango which I'm sure would like to have back. Then in the dying minutes of the 1st half midfielder Placentino stole a ball from the Fiorentina defence along the right side and then left footed a shot from inside the 18 yard box that hit the far upright. Close, but no cigar.
The first half really belonged to the home side, but that did not mean that Impact keeper Matt Jordan was left twiddling his thumbs. He was forced to make two good saves during his 45 minutes of work (Dos Santos put Srdjan Djekanovic in to start the 2nd half) including a brilliant fingertip save in the 19th minute off a shot by midfielder and team captain Marco Donadel that was labelled for the top portion of the net.
Obviously the Fiorentina side did not expect such a physical and heatedly contested match from the Impact. While the Impact said they respected their Serie A opponents and all their history, but they were there to win. But the men in purple shirts pulled up their proverbial socks in the 2nd half. As much as the Impact dominated the 1st half Fiorentina owned the 2nd. The Impact defended well, but were obviously tiring due to the constant pressure from Fiorentina. Fiorentina finally broke through courtesy of a nifty back-heel from constantly dangerous midfielder Stevan Jovetic that found striker Haris Seferovic, who blasted a shot that gave Djekanovic no chance.
1-1 was the final score in the match and was probably the right one. Each team dominated for stretches and could have scored more goals. The Impact impressed me with their competitiveness and discipline. Whereas Fiorentina allowed their emotions to get the best of them at times as Donadel and Natali both were issued yellow cards, the Impact stuck to their game plan. They stayed tight defensively and counter-attacked when they had the opportunity. It was an impressive display versus a world class opposition and certainly bodes well for a team that is going to move up to the MLS in 2012.
Montreal's next game is at home on Wednesday versus the Vancouver Whitecaps as part of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. The Impact are out of the running for the title, but there is still pride to play for.
-Officials: Referee: Silviu Petrescu
Linesmen: Pierre Cantave and Richard Gamache
-Goals: 1st Half:
8th minute – Montreal – Reda Abourram
63rd minute – Fiorentina – Haris Seferovic assisted by Stevan Jovetic
-Shots: Montreal: 10
-Saves: Montreal: 3
-Corners: Montreal: 1
-Final Score: Montreal: 1