So far their third season in the MLS has been a disappointment for the Montreal Impact. The Impact is the worst team in the league with a scant 3 wins in 19 games. None of those 3 wins have come about on the road. On this hot evening the Impact was in Sandy, Utah at the Rio Tinto to play Real Salt Lake. Salt Lake was going through a tough time in that they had only won 1 out of their last 8 games, but they were sitting in 2nd place in the Western Conference behind Seattle. Things are not so dire for Montreal as they are only 9 points out of 5th place and the final playoff position. If they want to make the playoffs they have to start winning now.
This game was the beginning of a busy period for the Impact as they have 3 games in 9 days. Coach Frank Klopas has to manage his bench well so as to not go into games with players with tired legs. As such he had made some changes in his starting 11. Justin Mapp was on the bench due to a slight leg injury. Evan Bush was getting his 2nd straight start in nets. Calum Mallace was getting the start as a holding midfielder. And finally, Klopas decided to go with only 1 striker, Marco Di Vaio, so Jack McInerney was starting on the bench.
Despite their struggle for victories lately Salt Lake got off to a dream start against Montreal. In the 2nd minute Salt Lake won a corner. It was taken by offensive catalyst Javier Morales and was headed over the end line by Hassoun Camara. The second corner was again taken by Morales and after glancing off of Patrice Bernier’s head the loose ball was missed by Mallace. Midfielder Luke Mulholland launched a low shot into the right side of the net that gave Bush no chance. This was a record that the Impact never wanted to set in that it was earliest goal they had ever surrendered. 1-0 Real Salt Lake.
It was the beginning of a busy and record setting night for Evan Bush. He had to make 8 saves during the game which is the most ever by an Impact keeper. Right after the early Salt Lake goal he was forced into making another save right after. After a Matteo Ferrari miscue in the 7th minute Mulholland had another chance on goal. Luckily the shot along the ground was right at Bush.
Showing some character against a stronger team, Montreal righted the ship and got back into the game. They began to create scoring chances of their own. It started in the 9th minute. Left fullback Krzysztof Krol switched the ball over to the other side to Andres Romero. Romero then played the ball to the far post where Di Vaio was able to get to it, but his redirection went wide of the left post. In the 17th minute again it was Romero who got the ball to Felipe on the right side of the penalty area. He played a ball along the ground to Issey Nakajima-Farran, who attempted an ambitious back heel that went wide of the short post.
Real Salt Lake looked most dangerous on the counter attack. They were very precise and quick in transition and central defenders Heath Pearce and Ferrari were having trouble with the speed. That was especially true when it came to the very speedy Joao Plata. In the 27th minute Plata walked around Camara like he wasn’t even there in the penalty area. Bush was forced into making another difficult save from close range. It seemed like it would be only a matter of time before Plata was to find the back of the net.
However, it was Montreal who scored the game’s next goal. Krol once again switched the ball to the opposite side to Mallace. His first touch was a good one and allowed him to quickly play a short diagonal ball back to Camara. The lanky fullback drilled a low shot into the far side of the net past Real Salt Lake keeper, Nick Rimando. It was Camara’s first goal of the season and Mallace’s first assist in the MLS. 1-1 Montreal-Salt Lake.
A couple of times in the game the referee and linesmen were guilty of pointing in the wrong direction. It was most obvious in the 53rd minute when referee Drew Fischer seemed at first to call a foul against Ned Grabavoy, a player the Impact could have had in the draft, but selected Mallace instead, after he collided with Issey. The free kick would have been in a central position just a couple of yards outside the penalty area. After the players were tended to by the trainers Fischer changed his mind and gave the ball to Salt Lake. Confusing to say the least.
In the 60th minute Montreal had a chance to take the lead when they broke away lead by Felipe into the Salt Lake end. At the top of the box he played the ball to his right to Romero. He had a couple of options, but his ball across was a letdown as it was behind Di Vaio.
In the Salt Lake’s next trip down the field Bush was forced into a couple of great bang-bang saves. Both were from in close with the first coming off Morales and then another when the rebound fell to substitute Olmes Garcia. It was pure robbery and kept his team in a 1-1 tie.
In the 65th minute the game changed for the worse for Montreal when Issey was issued a controversial red card. He went in for a challenge on Chris Schuler just on the Montreal side of half and his studs were up. They barely made contact with the Salt Lake player, though he did go down like he had broken his leg, though due to the studs being up the Fischer gave him a straight red. Montreal would now have to play the last 25 minutes of the game with only 10 men.
Montreal is a team with a fragile confidence and going down one man seemed to break the spirit of the team in blue. Up to that point the possession was equally divided between the two sides, but after the red card to Issey it became Salt Lake 68% and Montreal a paltry 32%. With that type of ball possession you are not going to mount many offensive chances and are most likely spending the vast majority of your time defending.
It did not take long for Salt Lake to break through courtesy of an excellent header by Garcia. The goal was made possible by Ferrari being out of position due to being beaten further up the field. This left Pearce alone in the middle and gave Garcia the chance to get up high to a Plata cross. He made no mistake with his strong header that gave Bush no chance. 2-1 Salt Lake.
It was obvious that there was not gas left in the tank for Montreal. They did not really create any offensive chances save in the 75th minute when Romero was given some space to get off a powerful half volley from just outside the box. Proving why he is thought of as the premiere keeper in the MLS Rimando punched away the ball and Camara could not get his head on the rebound. That was all she wrote for Montreal.
Garcia completed a brace in the 90th + 3 minute. Again it was a set up by Morales, who sent him in alone along the right hand side. He beat the Montreal keeper to the far side. 3-1 Salt Lake.
This was the 4th loss in a row for the Impact. They remain mired in last place in the Eastern Conference. It is going to take a near impossible run for them to make it to 5th place and the playoffs. The two bright lights for the Impact was the stellar play of Evan Bush, who is showing that he should be the number one keeper and on his first entry into an MLS game, Academy product Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé played well really challenging for balls and not looking out of place on the pitch.
The next game for Montreal is at Saputo Stadium on Sunday, July 27th against the Portland Timbers.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Drew Fischer
Linesmen – George Ganser and Mike Rottersman
-Goals: 1st Half:
3rd minute: Salt Lake – Luke Mulholland assisted by Chris Schuler
31st minute: Montreal – Hassoun Camara assisted by Calum Mallace
70th minute: Salt Lake – Olmes Garcia assisted by Javier Morales and Joao Plata
90th + 3 minute: Salt Lake – Olmes Garcia assisted by Javier Morales
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 2
Salt Lake – 11
-Corners: Montreal – 0
Salt Lake – 5
-Man of the Match: Evan Bush
-Final Score: Montreal – 1
Salt Lake – 3