There may not have been much at stake, but this was a better watch than Stade Saputo regulars have been used to this season, as the Impact ensured the Red Bulls’ dreadful Montreal record continued apace.
The men from Harrison, New Jersey have not won on their last ten visits in all competitions to Quebec, losing eight times. A 2-1 success at the Olympic Stadium in May 2012, the Impact then just a couple of months an MLS outfit, the Red Bulls’ sole success to date.
Today they needed to win and hope DC didn’t, at home to Cincinnati, to secure a home date in the Play-offs. They never really got close after a few early opportunities went abegging.
Royer spurned a difficult chance on 5 mins from Long’s flick-on at a corner. The Austrian hit the frame of the goal and the ball found its way over. Kyle Duncan pulled a shot wide on 11, and Brian White’s cross into Royer at the front post was met first by Bacary Sagna, whose block went behind for a corner.
For the Impact, Taider had the ball in the net in between, however Okwonkwo was correctly called offside from Urruti’s prod forward.
Taider fired further warning taking the ball short from a free-kick before sending in a cross that was wildly sliced for a corner by Casseres Jnr.
That was on 21 mins. Just two mins later Okwonkwo caught Parker with his feet in a tangle, and off he sprinted towards goal. Duncan in pursuit got closest, but the young Nigerian managed to reach the byeline before pulling back brilliantly to present Bojan with the type of opportunity the Spaniard takes with his eyes closed.
Okwonkwo, without an assist all season prior to the last home game, now has two in two games, and both times Bojan has been the finisher. Duncan for his trouble picked up an injury in trying to arrest Okwonkwo’s charge, and played no further part.
The Impact extended their lead on 37 mins after a good interchange between Piatti and Raitala on the left. The Finnish full-back looked to be pushed by Murillo, Duncan’s replacement, as he used his body to shield the ball inside the area. Mr Saghafi was unimpressed and allowed play to continue. Robles and Murillo looked confused, couldn’t get the ball under control and a grateful Urruti finished from a narrow angle.
The Impact front three of Bojan, Piatti and Urruti were dynamic and fluid displaying much interchangeability, with Okwonkwo, one of a midfield three, often the farthest player forward on the right side.
The Red Bulls tried to respond. On the hour mark, Brain White was sent away by Sims’ through ball, but Diop looking for his first MLS clean-sheet for two years was alert to the danger and thwarted the striker.
It was a timely intervention, and what could have been 2-1, actually did become 3-0, just a couple of minutes later. Urruti, Sagna and Taider combined, the latter sending in a beautiful curling cross met by a diving Okwonkwo, his chest applying the finishing touch at the back post, with Robles beaten again.
A couple of chances came the Red Bulls’ way in the last ten minutes, but the game was already won before Murillo’s rocket struck the bar and Diop made a fine intervention at the feet of Omir Fernandez to preserve his shut-out.
In between Piatti was replaced by Shamit Shome. The captain removed his armband, handing it to Piette. Was this the symbolic changing of the guard? The Argentine waved and applauded towards all four sides of the stadium as he exited the arena. Clement Diop ran half the length of the field to embrace his team-mate.
The crowd stood to a man to acclaim the genius they have feasted on so frequently. The Ultras sang his name incessantly until the final whistle.
But still, if this was Piatti’s last appearance in the blue/black shirt he’s graced like no other, it was tame, much too low-key. It certainly looked like ‘farewell’ but there wasn’t enough ‘occasion’ attached. It felt like a case of, ‘Nacho had better wave goodbye today, just in case ....’
That ‘just in case’ will be one of the more pressing matters for new Sporting Director, Olivier Renard, whose decision regarding the optional year on Piatti’s contract appears yet to be pending. Despite declaring his desire to return to Argentina a year ago, it seems Piatti’s stop/start year has altered his thinking, and now the ball’s in the Impact’s court..
It won’t be the only huge decision for the Belgian as he settles into Montreal life..
IMFC - Diop - Sagna, Fanni, Camacho (Corrales, 89), Raitala - Okwonkwo (Lappalainen, 81), Piette, Taider - Urruti, Bojan, Piatti (Shome, 85).
NYRB - Robles - Duncan (Murillo, 26), Parker, Long, Lawrence - Davis, Casseres Jnr, Kaku, Sims, Royer (Fernandez, 72) - White (Wright-Phillips, 62)
Match Officials -
Referee - Nima Saghafi
Asst Refs - Adam Wienchowski & Jeremy Kieso
4th Official - Marcos DeOlivera
VAR - Chico Grajeda
Attendance - 15,022
Footnote - Cincinnati despite playing with 9, for more than half the game, managed to hold DC United to a 0-0 draw, which would have ben enough to provide New York Red Bulls with a home tie as the Play-offs get underway, had they won in Montreal this evening. Instead they will be away to Philadelphia Union on 19 or 20 October.