Montreal Impact Win Home Opener Over TFC, Remain Perfect in MLS
MONTREAL—The Montreal Impact moved to a perfect 3–0 after an intense 2–1 win over Highway 401 rivals Toronto FC at Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
The Impact’s star power ultimately made the difference, but not without referee Baldomero Toledo taking on a prominent role in the proceedings.
With two penalty shots awarded, the match had the referee’s stamp all over it. But the Impact made the most of their opportunities in the first half and suffered through a disappointing second half to earn the victory.
“The second half was not good,” said Impact coach Marco Schallibaum. “We suffered in the second half. We know Toronto is a good team.”
Schallibaum was pleased, though, that his players were not happy with their second-half performance.
“Today, we could have had more comfort, but we entered the second half with our head in the clouds,” said Quebec native Patrice Bernier, who had another strong performance at the heart of the Impact midfield.
“It wasn’t the second half that we wanted to have. We know that,” captain Davy Arnaud said.
Impact in Front
The Impact took the lead in the 34th minute when Bernier converted a penalty kick. Bernier was at the origin of the attack that led to the penalty call when he found Argentine winger Andres Romero in open space on the right flank.
Romero got in behind TFC left back Ashtone Morgan, who clattered into him trying to win the ball back. It was a borderline penalty call that went in Montreal’s favor.
Bernier, an expert penalty kick taker who converted six last year, faked and sent Joe Bendik to his left before placing the ball in the right side of the net.
The Impact extended their lead in first-half injury time when Italian striker Marco Di Vaio split the TFC defense, received the ball from Arnaud, rounded Bendik, and slotted the ball in the far side of the goal.
It was a tough way to end the first half for TFC, which had started to play much better since defensive stalwart Alessandro Nesta left the game in the 12th minute. Their best chance of the first half had come on the half-hour mark when John Bostock beat Dennis Iapichino on the right flank and found Hogan Ephraim. Ephraim’s shot was cleared off the line by Montreal’s Jeb Brovski.
Toronto FC started the second half brightly with Ephraim hitting the crossbar and Impact goalie Troy Perkins being forced to make a good save off Robert Earnshaw very shortly thereafter.
The visitors got on the board in the 68th minute when Earnshaw converted a penalty for his third goal of the year. The penalty call was another questionable one: Terry Dunfield was pulled down in the penalty box by Iapichino in an off-the-ball incident.
“Our pressure was better in the second half,” Earnshaw said. “We tried to create more chances.”
“I think we got a little too comfortable. We have to be a bit more professional and handle the first 15 minutes a lot better than we did,” said Perkins.
Perkins was lauded by Schallibaum for his calm demeanor. “He has this aura,” said Schallibaum. “Chapeau [hats off].”
That calm demeanor helped the Impact hang on for the victory although Felipe could have made things feel better had he not spurned a chance in the 89th minute on a fast counter-attacking move.
For Toronto FC, the second half is something to draw positives from. But they haven’t put together a full 90-minute performance yet as the developing team comes together.
“Our standard for a full 90-minute game has to be raised,” Earnshaw said. “I think over the coming weeks we’ll get better. It’s a difficult defeat to take. The first half was not good enough.”
Nearly 38,000 fans showed up for the MLS rivalry week game. The rivalry between Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact is rapidly developing.
This year an estimated 3,000 TFC fans made the trip to Montreal and a large contingent of them occupied a section to the left of the goal defended by Toronto in the first half.
A new artificial pitch was put in at Olympic Stadium for the Impact’s home opener. They won’t play at Saputo Stadium until their third home game on Apr. 13 against Columbus. By then, they would have already played three road games on the West Coast.
Up next for the Impact is a visit from the New York Red Bulls next Saturday, while Toronto FC has two weeks off before hosting the defending MLS Cup champion L.A. Galaxy at the BMO Field home opener.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports
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