The month of May has been a tough one for the Montreal Impact in that it has been very busy. They have played 9 games in the span of 30 days. That might not seem like a lot in that hockey and baseball players have heavier schedules, but you have to keep in mind that these are completely different games. Baseball, let's face it, is not as physically taxing and hockey players get to get a break every minute or so and play only 20-odd minutes per game. Soccer players don't get breaks and play a 90 minute game for the most part. It is hard on the body. Taking that into account you couldn't really blame the home side for playing a match in which their legs looked a little heavy…or could you?
Beginnings of the season have been rough for the Montreal Impact the past couple of years for one reason or another. This is not the case this season with the team being undefeated in its last 6 regular season games. It is not that they are scoring more goals than they had previous years it is that they are playing excellent team defence. They are not giving up bad goals that gnaw that the team's collective psyche. Ball possession and team defence are the strengths of this year's team.
This was an important game for the two sides. With a win Montreal would move back into 1st place in the NASL division of the USSF-2 league. If Carolina won then they would move into 2nd place ahead of Montreal. Carolina is a strong team (physically they are taller and heavier than Montreal) that also plays a ball possession type game. More worrisome for Montreal was the fact that Carolina has not lost on the road so far this season.
Because of a couple of injuries to Stefan deRoux and Roberto Brown, Montreal would be playing a traditional 4-4-2 with Philippe Billy playing left fullback and Rocco Placentino starting up at striker with Eduardo Sebrango. Billy played fullback against Fiorentina and played a strong game offering the Impact some offensive punch being a right footer player on the left side. Placentino's (not a natural scorer) job would be as a set up man for Sebrango.
Played under perfect conditions for soccer (only a light wind, slightly cloudy and 20 degrees Celsius) and in front of the second sold out crowd of the season, the game would also be a significant one for two of the Impact starting eleven in that fullback Adam Braz would reach the 10,000 minute mark and captain Nevio Pizzolitto would reach the 20,000 minute mark. Pizzolitto is only the team's second "iron man" in that only former captain Mauro Biello has played more minutes (25,288).
The Impact was coming off 2 games (Fiorentina and Vancouver – Nutrilite Canadian Championships) that didn't really mean anything. That kind of laid back attitude was apparent during the first 45 minutes of the game in the play of the Impact. They were uncreative in their offensive efforts and did not really threaten RailHawks keeper, Eric Reed, at all in the 1st half.
A telling sign for the Impact came in the 9th minute when fullback Cédric Joqueviel gave up the ball rather cheaply and that allowed RailHawks midfielder Josh Gardner to have a high quality shot on Impact keeper Matt Jordan. Thankfully Jordan was up to the test making a diving save, but it was indicative of the loose play in the first third of the field on the part of the Impact during the 1st half.
Their lax play came back to haunt them in 20th minute when once again Joqueviel was victim, but this time to striker Etienne Barbara who then went in alone against Jordan and easily stroked the ball past him for his team leading 4th goal of the season.
Thankfully the damage was limited to the 1-0 score at half time. Most, including the Impact themselves, were still confident as Carolina has allowed 1 goal (at least) in 5 of its 6 games.
Despite the fact that they fell back a bit to defend their 1-0 lead getting past the RailHawks defenders was difficult for the Impact. Montreal did step it up a bit in the 2nd half and had a few opportunities to score the tying goal, but it wasn't to be on this afternoon. Montreal controlled the ball for most of the 2nd half they did not create that many quality offensive chances. David Testo had one off a volley and just minutes later Tony Donatelli headed one just wide of goal, but there wasn't much else.
Carolina added insult to injury when the scored a second goal in the 90th minute with Montreal pressing for the equalizer and could not get enough men back behind the ball to defend. Substitute Andriy Budnyy, on a breakaway, beat Jordon with a low shot to his right that was out of his reach.
Next up for the Impact is another international match against another Italian Serie A team, AC Milan. The game is happening this Wednesday evening at the Big O.
-Officials: Referee: Alain Ruch
Linesmen: Pierre Cantave and Bedik Charchafian
-Goals: 1st Half:
20th minute – Carolina – Etienne Barbara assisted by David Hayes
90th minute – Carolina – Andriy Budnyy
-Shots: Montreal: 6
-Saves: Montreal: 2
-Corners: Montreal: 3
-Attendance: 13, 034 (sold out)
-Final Score: Montreal: 0