Home MLS Montreal Impact Impact comes oh so close to late equalizer in Chicago

Impact comes oh so close to late equalizer in Chicago

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The Chicago Fire went into its game against the Montreal Impact with MLS’s top sniper, Mike Magee, sidelined with a calf injury. Second-leading scorer, Chris Rolfe, was among the substitutes. But the home side still prevailed by a 2-1 score.

Impact head coach Marco Schallibaum had his men play a 4-3-3 formation with Daniele Paponi, Sanna Nyassi and Justin Mapp up top and controlled the play, holding the ball for two thirds of the opening half. While Montreal passed crisply and frequently took the game onto the Chicago side of midfield, however once in enemy territory showed very little inclination to or idea on how to finish.

The Fire, on the other hand, made much more efficient use of its time on the ball. Following a free kick awarded after a sliding Davy Arnaud tackle was whistled by referee Juan Guzman, a Paponi header landed at the feet of midfielder Joel Lindpere on the edge of the box. The veteran Estonian midfielder put it into the mesh, glancing his shot off the Impact forward to complicate matters for Impact goalkeeper, Troy Perkins.

A second goal was also initiated off a set play, this time a corner conceded by Jeb Brovsky in the 22nd minute after the Montreal defender vociferously denied the ball had hit him. Dilly Duka gathered in a semi-cleared ball and weaved his way through a forest of blue. At one point the ball was dislodged by Impact defender Alessandro Nesta before Duka recovered it and continued his drive to the goal before unleashing a shot from 10 metres out that doubled the home side’s lead.

Montreal had only one real chance in the opening half. It came in the 39th and proved to be the only time that the three forwards combined to threaten Sean Johnson’s goal.

Nyassi tore up the left side and crossed to Paponi in front of the net, one of 24 crosses the Impact would attempt in the match. The Italian chose to send the ball on rather than take the shot himself, but Mapp was unable to slip it under a diving Johnson.

Coming out with more purpose to its play in the second half, Montreal challenged early on with Hassoun Camara feeding Paponi only to have Johnson grab the header he directed towards the goal.

Chicago replied shortly afterwards as Designated Player Juan Luis Anangono’s shot was blocked by a sprawling Perkins. The Ecuadorean forward beat Nesta on his way to the net but the veteran defender was able to get a sliding tackle in that somewhat impeded the DP’s progress.

The two rubbed up against each other on several occasions with Nesta generally prevailing, using experience and anticipation to successfully counter the larger, faster and stronger Anangono on most occasions.

Chris Rolfe PHOTO: RYAN BYRNE

Schallibaum made his first changes in the 56th minute, sending on Felipe and Marco Di Vaio, withdrawing Arnaud and Hernan Bernardello and dropping Mapp back to his familiar midfield slot.

The move paid off within seconds with the only Impact goal of the evening. Mapp gained control of the ball in the middle of the pitch and shifted it to Nyassi on the left flank. The Gambian forward returned it to the centre, finding Felipe in the clear just above the top of the box. The Brazilian’s shot found the bottom right corner, netting him his fourth of the season, good for second place on the team.

Montreal continued to apply pressure, taking the game to its hosts and occasionally gave up counterattacks that were dealt with by the backline. But the Impact waa unable to draw even.

Paponi, who earned an 80th-minute yellow card for his slide into Johnson after the goalkeeper was deemed to have wrapped himself around the ball, had an opportunity for a point-blank shot four minutes later but chose to move the ball along to Andres Romero. The Argentine had his try nullified by Johnson.

A minute before the end of regulation time Mapp crossed the ball to the far post. Defender Brovsky got under it and bounced a header into the arms of an alert Johnson.

Challenging to the very end, Montreal’s last attempt came on a set play in the third of four minutes of added time. Romero’s cross sailed into the six-metre box and was met by Matteo Ferrari. The Italian central defender headed it towards the inside of the near post, picking a spot that was defended by five-foot-eight, 146-pound Rolfe rather than Johnson, a six-foot-three, 217-pounder.

The undersized opponent headed the ball up and back down the pitch with the referee’s whistle bringing things to a conclusion moments later.

The loss puts Montreal in fourth place on the MLS Eastern Conference table with 35 points from 22 games. The Impact’s next game is at home to last-place DC United next Saturday.

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