When facing an opponent who’s scored on you more than any other in MLS history, you probably don’t want to send gift opportunities in his direction.
But that’s precisely what Orlando did, and Ignacio Piatti needed no second invitations, as he raised his tally against the Lions to 10 in 10 games.
James O’Connor, Orlando’s Irish coach was critical of how his team defended.
“To play for this football club you need to have a really strong mentality. When you defend the way we did, you make it practically impossible to give yourself a chance of going and winning the game. You can’t defend like that and expect to get something out of the game.”
Montreal won as comfortably as they will this season on the road, as a dis-organized, error-ridden display undermined any aspirations Orlando had of success.
It was a fourth successive victory for the Impact over their Florida hosts - the first time they have achieved such a feat over an MLS opponent - and would’ve have been their third shut-out in-a-row in the series but for Dwyer’s late intervention.
Dwyer certainly was impactful in the closing stages, and not for all the right reasons. His goal was much less significant, after an indifferent display of finishing throughout by the Englishman, than his over-reaction to a push by Zakaria Diallo as a melee developed on the bye-line near the corner. Diallo lifted his hands and appeared to push the Orlando player, but the fashion in which Dwyer went down suggested more than a hint of simulation.
Production of the red card to Diallo was the right decision. There can be no excuse, despite provocation suffered, but surely someone must look at the way Dwyer went down, not least the player himself.
Diallo now misses the game against Sporting Kansas City in two weeks, something that will concern his coach, who appeared visibly frustrated. It took the gloss off a fine performance and a very good result.
Apart from an Urruti shot within the first sixty seconds, it was Orlando who started the game the brighter. One chance in particular after a Cabrera giveaway in the 7th minute saw Nani set up Dwyer for an opportunity he’d normally accept, but he put his finish high over the bar.
Orlando were caught out in the 14th minute however. It began with Piette in his own half, dispossessing Mueller and despatching an excellent diagonal ball out to Taider. The Algerian outsmarted Acosta, crossing into the box for Okwonkwo, who was able to take a touch before producing a neat finish. It was the Nigerian’s first MLS goal, and he would have been surprised at the space allowed in the opposition box, after moving from Serie A.
A minute later, Shane O’Neill’s horrendous back-pass let in Urruti. The striker pushed past the stranded Rowe, who fouled him, Piatti the sorcerer slid the ball into the empty goal anyhow. 2-0. Rowe was yellow-carded for his troubles.
Things got worse for Orlando who lost Will Johnson to injury on 20 mins, although they may have ended the half closer through a Dwyer header that went straight at Bush, and a fierce shot from Mueller which just cleared the bar on 41 mins.
Impact were probably a little flattered by the two-goal half-time margin, but were deservedly in the lead.
After another Cabrera giveaway in the 58th minute when the centre-back got his feet in a tangle, Montreal were lucky not to concede, Dwyer firing hopelessly over when a goal looked more likely.
As the half wore on though it was the Impact who looked more assured, more in control and who indeed carried the more potent goal threat.
Okwonkwo was proving a handful on the right side and almost put the issue beyond doubt in the 69th minute, latching onto to Piette’s through ball. Rowe in the Orlando goal who could be satisfied with his afternoon’s work, stood tall and won the battle of wits, this time.
It was only putting off the inevitable however. Novillo had replaced the effective Okwonkwo on 74, and six minutes later dispossessed Kljestan before feeding Piatti. The Impact attackers had a two-on-one numerical advantage, and Piatti took all his time, holding off the recovering Klejstan, before slotting in the insurance goal. Novillo’s composure was an encouraging aspect of the play.
“It was a big performance from the players today,” said Impact head coach Rémi Garde. “I’m very happy they respected the game plan and the instructions I had insisted upon. It’s the reward stemming from an excellent collective effort. I think we controlled this game. We did what we wanted to do. I wanted to give the same players the opportunity to prove that last week in Houston was an accident, and I expected this reaction.”
Evan Bush can justifiably feel annoyance at not keeping his first shut-out of 2019, especially given the lateness (90+1) of Orlando’s consolation, but the greater frustration will be the dismissal of Diallo in the dying embers of the game.
Impact now go to Sporting Kansas City for their next game in two weeks. There is no game next weekend due to the international break. Clearly the next three games (also New York City FC and DC United) look on paper to be a step-up in class from the first trio. If Montreal can find a way to win one of those, the outcome of their six-game travel odyssey will surely be deemed a success.
MTL – GK-Evan Bush; D-Bacary Sagna, Víctor Cabrera (Mathieu Choinière 83’), Zakaria Diallo, Daniel Lovitz; M-Samuel Piette, Micheal Azira, Saphir Taïder; F-Orji Okwonkwo (Harry Novillo 74’), Maximiliano Urruti (Jukka Raitala 76’), Ignacio Piatti
Subs not used – Clément Diop, Rudy Camacho, Shamit Shome, Anthony Jackson-Hamel
ORL – GK-Brian Rowe; D-Ruan, Shane O’Neill (Santiago Patiño 74’), Carlos Ascues, Danilo Acosta (Josué Colmán 75’), Chris Mueller; M-Will Johnson (Cristian Higuita 21’), Sacha Kjlestan, Sebastián Méndez; F-Dom Dwyer, Nani
Subs not used – Greg Ranjitsingh, Alex De John, Kyle Smith, Oriol Rosell
Referee - Timothy Ford