Niagara Falls’ Opare puts Impact’s playoff hopes in troubled waters By Mike Wyman Posted on October 17, 2013 4 0 534 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Kofi Opare In a battle of the Eastern and Western Conferences’ fourth-place teams — both more concerned with the teams closing on them from below than any they may be chasing up the ladder — the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the visiting Montreal Impact 1-0 Wednesday. The Galaxy moves into third place in its half of MLS standings, almost guaranteeing its appearance in the playoffs. Reluctant to rotate his personnel for the bulk of the season, Impact head coach Marco Schallibaum, prompted by injuries and suspensions to his regulars, fielded a squad that read like a reserve side, starting Evan Bush in goal, putting three youthful academy products on the back line and adding another couple to his bench. While the home side dominated possession, the Galaxy holding the ball for fully two-thirds of the first half, Montreal got the best chances in the early going before the flow of play established itself in Los Angeles’s favour. Two minutes after play got underway, Collen Warner fed Andrew Wenger on the right side but the forward’s shot rolled wide of the far post. Andrea Pisanu managed to get a ball out of traffic and on to Marco Di Vaio in the 12th minute. The 19-goal scorer centred to Wenger in the 12th but he was unable to finish the play. At the quarter-hour Warner once again got control and sped up the pitch, Di Vaio and Wenger running ahead of him. Holding the ball longer than he should have, his only option became a wide pass to Wenger that didn’t yield a shot. Sending in a dozen crosses from open play, Los Angeles got its chances as the game played on. Local product Jack McBean headed a Juninho corner over the Impact goal in the 21st minute and, four minutes later, nodded a Michael Stephens centre that was nabbed by Bush, who also denied a Gyasi Zardes headed attempt in the 31st. Zardes came close to giving the Galaxy a lead in the 42nd minute, beating Impact midfielder Hernan Bernardello and unleashing a shot that glanced off Hassoun Camara and bounced off the right upright. The peroxided Zardes came to the fore once again after the interval, his centering pass finding Jose Villarreal in the six-metre box but the 20-year-old Galaxy academy product’s header went high. A long Bernardello aerial landed at Di Vaio’s feet in the 53rd minute and the Italian veteran, who yesterday had his option picked up for next year by the Impact, slid the ball to Wenger who had his heel clipped by Kofi Opare, nullifying the threat without drawing the referee’s attention. In the 55th Montreal came close to converting on one of the few corner kicks they were awarded during the match. Pisanu landed his service in a knot of players and, in less time than it takes to say it, Karl Ouimette headed it goalward but had it turned back. Hassoun Camara tried a bicycle kick that was also blocked and Wandrille Lefevre also got his head on it, putting the ball over Brian Rowe’s goal. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena sent on Robbie Keane, who yesterday played 90 minutes in his role as Irish captain a half-dozen time zones away, for McBean and Laurent Courtois replaced Michael Stephens in the 60th minute. While neither figured on the score sheet, their insertion noticeably upped the tempo and paid off for the Galaxy eight minutes later. The game’s only goal came off a set piece, one of seven corner kicks that L.A. took on the night. Bush was able to block but not clear the header that came his way. The ball rattled around without a Montreal player able to establish control. It went out to the top of the box and came back in, finding Opare. The 24-year-old Niagara Falls, Ont. native finished for his first MLS goal, earning himself a yellow card for the exuberance he showed afterwards. Zardes came close to doubling the Los Angeles lead in the 81st when he fought off an Impact opponent and rattled one off the bar. While the Galaxy climbed to third place in the west, putting some room between them and the red line separating the successful teams from the also-rans, the loss leaves the Impact straddling it. Tied with Philadelphia and Chicago, all three teams showing 46 points on 32 games, the Impact hosts the Union on Saturday and close out the regular season in Toronto a week later.