Over the course of its history, the Major League Soccer league has continuously aimed to improve the on-field product. Players have gotten better with names like Thierry Henry, David Beckham, Didier Drogba, David Villa, Kaka, Steven Gerrard, and Frank Lampard coming over to play for various squads. As a result of the improved quality the crowds have grown. Unfortunately, what hasn’t improved is the refereeing. Actually it is awful. So awful that we have become happy when a referee has not affected the outcome of games due to non-calls or just terrible ones. Last night’s game at Saputo Stadium was an example of that.
This was a game in which the home side Montreal Impact wanted badly. That despite the fact that they were missing 6 starters. Being a World Cup qualifying weekend the Impact were missing Laurent Ciman, Blerim Dzemaili, Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Samuel Piette, David Choiniere, and Shaun Francis. As such they started Andres Romero (first start in a very long time – 2015), Hassoun Camara, Louis Beland-Goyette, Deian Boldor (first game for the squad and in the MLS), and Marco Donadel. The Fire was only missing American midfielder Dax McCarthy. Still they were hopeful as they were playing at home and against a team that has been having a rough go of it lately. After starting off the season very strong Chicago has only won one game since the beginning of July. They are in 4th place in the Eastern Division and 5 points ahead of the 7th place Montreal team.
It was looking good. Rookie Boldor was demonstrating himself to be a solid player in the central defense. Constantly talking to and directing his teammates along with much needed aerial skills (he is 6’2″). In the 1st half it was the home side that had created the scoring chances. Snakebitten striker Matteo Mancosu had a couple and Beland-Goyette received a great pass from Ignacio Piatti which should have been struck first time instead of trying to dribble in closer. Impact keeper Evan Bush had very little to do in the 1st half. The only save he had to make was off a missed clearance from his own player Boldor. Montreal was not allowing the Fire to do what they are comfortable doing in controlling the ball for long stretches. The half ended 0-0.
It was just after the restart that things changed in a moment. It was a change that rests solely on the shoulders of referee and the video assistant. In the 50th minute, central defender Boldor went in on a challenge against Schweinsteiger. There can be no argument that the challenge was a shade late. He did also go in with his studs up, but I don’t even think (after watching the replay many times) that he made contact with the German’s leg. Initially the referee assessed him a yellow card, which was okay though a little harsh as it was pretty much Boldor’s first foul of the game. Then he rewatched the foul on a screen on the sideline and indicated he wanted the video assistant to look at it to decide the final outcome. The video assistant decided that the foul warranted a straight red. Boldor was sent off by Baldomero Toledo. Showing his sportsmanship the Romanian, who after the game said it was his first red card, shook Toledo’s hand before exiting the field. Shocking! Was it because the foul was against the high profile Schweinsteiger? Certainly did not warrant a red. The Montreal crowd showed its displeasure by booing the former Germany captain each time he touched the ball.
Not long after the sending off of Boldor and Montreal being reduced to 10 men, Chicago took advantage. Wingback Matt Polster got beyond Daniel Lovitz and slotted a ball back to an uncovered Schweinsteiger, who had the whole side of the net to put the ball into. It was Schweinsteiger’s 3rd goal of the year with two of them coming against the Impact. Another Designated Player bringing up the profile of the MLS.
Continuing to look for the tying goal, Montreal’s best chance came in the 80th minute from the man you would expect it to, when Piatti worked his footwork magic with 2-3 Fire players on him. He wriggled free enough to get away a shot along the ground to the far side that beat Chicago keeper Matt Lampson only to see it hit the post. Piatti clutched his head and the hearts of the over 19,000 in attendance broke. Piatti also had another chance in injury time, but could not get enough on his shot from inside the box and it went directly at Lampson.
The result was that Montreal has lost two in a row at home at a very important time in the season. A time when they are trying to crawl into the playoff picture. They missed a golden opportunity to close the gap between themselves and those ahead of them in the East. Remaining in 7th place with 36 points, the bleu-blanc-noir have the same amount of points as 6th place Atlanta United though the expansion club has played two fewer games. Montreal has eight games remaining of which only 3 are at home and two games are against their dreaded rivals and the class of the league, Toronto FC.
Montreal to their credit, despite the fact that they were down to 10 men after the red card to Boldor, continued to press forward for the last 20-30 minutes of the contest. Chicago seemed happy to sit back and absorb the pressure. Another positive for me was the play of Boldor. Steady in the middle and good in the air, he showed that he is now in the discussion to be the man playing beside Ciman.
-On-field Officials: Referee – Baldomero Toledo
-Goals: 1st half:
59th minute: Chicago – Bastian Schweinsteiger assisted by Matt Polster
-Shots on Goal: Montreal –
-Corners: Montreal –
-Man of the Match: Patrice Bernier
-Final Score: Montreal – 0
Chicago – 1