Home MLS Montreal Impact Impact has to settle for draw in Stade Saputo opener

Impact has to settle for draw in Stade Saputo opener

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The Montreal Impact and Columbus Crew finally got their game underway some 22 hours after the time for which it was originally scheduled came and went, the match falling victim to a late-spring snowfall that made the pitch at Saputo Stadium unplayable.

The home side, which had not played in 15 days due to a bye, the rescheduling of the game against Los Angeles and the recent precipitation, presented a lacklustre opening half. But the Impact picked up the pace in the second half to end the day with a 1-1 draw, assuring that the Impact remain atop the Eastern Conference table.

Head coach Marco Schallibaum, who watched his team from afar, the result of a one-game suspension earned against Sporting Kansas City in the Impact’s last match, handed the reins to assistant Mauro Biello, who was making his head coaching debut.

“We worked throughout the week to prepare the team as a staff and today it was my job to be on the sideline to encourage the team and to manage the rhythm,” Biello said to open his postgame comments. “Obviously we would have loved to win the game but, unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Overall I think there were a lot of positives from that game.”

Montreal held the advantage when it came to possession time for the first time this season but despite that edge were unable to convert on any off their chances in the opening 45 as Columbus played a close to ideal road game, clogging the middle, remaining compact and launching regular counter-attacks.

An active and involved Justin Mapp stood out, his crosses setting the stage for a number of chances while Patrice Bernier once again was the glue that held the team together, rebounding from a less than stellar outing in Kansas City two weeks ago. Rookie defender Karl Ouimette, pressed into service when Matteo Ferrari felt less than fit after the warm-up, was steadier than in his last outing but he and his backline cohorts, Hassoun Camara, Alessandro Nesta and Jeb Brovsky were not as heavily or frequently challenged this week as they were the last time the Impact took to the pitch.

The scoreless opening half saw Montreal have great difficulty in the offensive third of the field as the best chances came from the visitors. In the 37th minute a series of headers, five or six in all, were bounced around the Montreal goal area with Impact players looking on as only good fortune kept the Crew from burying the ball and taking a lead.

Columbus captain, Federico Higuain, had a better chance in the 38th, his drive from well inside the confines of the penalty area resulting in the one difficult save that Troy Perkins made on the afternoon.

Upping their pace and showing more cohesiveness in the second half Montreal performed better and had some opportunities of its own even though it only directed a pair of balls at the goal, one less than it managed in the first.

Andres Romero had a difficult afternoon of it, outflanked by his opposite number and less than fleet of foot when in control of the ball. He was replaced by Sanna Nyassi in the 67th minute, a move that paid dividends moments later. The Gambian’s shot yielded a rebound that Marco Di Vaio put behind keeper Andy Gruenebaum for his third goal of the season.

Columbus got the equalizer in the 72nd on forward Dominic Oduro’s left-footed drive from just inside the area finding the top right hand corner of the Impact net.

“We could have been a little better, in the first half, on the last pass and when centering the ball,” said Biello. “I think most of our chances came from the flanks. We did a little better in the second half, creating a few more opportunities and getting a nice goal.”

“I think we did enough to win this game, definitely,” offered Biello. “They had one chance in the second half, other than set pieces that looked a little scrambly. We created chances with Sanna at the end and Marco had a good goal. It’s not easy. Games like this are going to happen and we’ll take the point. Yes, we would have loved to have the three points but we have to continue to build on what we saw today and get better from here.”

“We made a few errors in the first half, the same kind of mistakes we made against Sporting Kansas City, that allowed them some opportunities,” offered midfielder Patrice Bernier.

“We adjusted for the second half and started creating chances and took the lead. But then we gave up a goal, a good goal so we end up with a tie. We weren’t always intelligent in how we moved the ball, especially in the first half,” he continued.

“I’m disappointed with not getting three points,” declared defender Brovsky, one of four Impact players to have played every minute of the Impact season so far. “Especially at home in front of our crowd when we feel we’ve got the run of the play. We were just missing the last play, the last ball, the last finish and we would have been there but I guess that’s the difference in this league — you get punished for your mistakes.”

Mapp, who could have been just as easily named the Impact Player of the Game as was goalkeeper Perkins, said that it was an evenly matched contest, declaring, “Both teams had some chances. I thought we probably deserved it a little more but that’s the way it goes sometimes. There’s no reason to hang our heads. With all the weather and not the best pitch we made the best out of it today and we’ll move on. It was a hard-fought game. We would have liked the three points, we felt we did enough.”

Montreal has yet another week without MLS competition and then takes to the pitch at BMO Field on April 24 for the opening leg of their home-and-home series against Toronto FC as part of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.

Throw-Ins: Former Impact defender Tyson Wahl is one of only four Columbus Crew players to have been on the pitch for every minute the club has played to this point in the season.

• Former Impact goalkeeper, Greg Sutton, has gone over to the Dark Side, becoming a member of the TSN2 broadcast team for this afternoon’s match.

• The Impact – Crew match was not the only one to go unplayed yesterday. Montreal’s U-16 and U-18 squads were slated to meet their New England Revolution counterparts yesterday but the City of Montreal closed the field on which the sides were slated to play.

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