Montreal Impact last night recorded a first-ever victory in the sunshine state, winning an MLS opener for the third time in club-history.
As so often before for the Montrealers, Ignacio Piatti proved the catalyst, dragging his team back into the game with a typical individual strike after Magnus Eriksson had given the home side an 11th minute lead.
Piatti took a short corner from Taider in the 29th minute, spun past Espinoza rather too easily, trolled the bye-line, made himself an angle and smashed the ball past compatriot Daniel Vega, making his MLS debut in the Quakes’ goal.
The visitors had started solidly and steadily only for old failings to re-emerge. For that opening Quakes goal, Vako darted in-field away from Sagna, unbalancing the back four, and fed the ball to Eriksson, who was given too much time to pick his spot. Bush had little chance in the Montreal goal, as the Swede made no mistake.
Just 11 mins on the clock, and there was the distinct feeling of “here we go again”. Montreal had conceded inside the first 20 mins of a road game yet again, an all too familiar phenomenon that occurred 7 times in 17 road fixtures in 2018.
Another striking feature of the game’s early stages was many players’ inabilities to remain upright. Too many were finding difficulty holding their feet on a greasy surface.
Just prior to the Piatti equalizer, Taider had gone close with a good free-kick which Vega was happy to help over the frame of the goal. In fact Piatti’s strike came from the resultant corner.
Taider however was not to be frustrated a second time (at least not yet) after ghosting in at the back post to meet a wonderful pass from Zakaria Diallo and shooting high into the net. 0-1 down in 11 mins, Montreal now led 2-1 after 44.
It was no more than the Impact deserved. They had looked the more accomplished side throughout the opening half, dictating the tempo, and indeed after the restart, should have put real daylight between the teams after Piatti and Urruti combined on the left to set up Taider with a glorious chance. This time however the Algerian got it all wrong and his attempt blazed over the goal from 12 yards.
That was on 62 mins, after which Montreal as an attacking force was rarely seen.
Remi Garde will rightly be delighted at the three points won, given how difficult this type of fixture traditionally has been for his side, however despite some excellent and dogged defending there will be concern at how deep the Impact retreated throughout the last third of the game.
This enabled the initiative to be San Jose’s, although despite dominating possession they were unable to trouble Bush too often. Mainly the Impact ‘keeper was well-positioned to deal with anything coming his way, although in the 84th minute he needed to be alert to divert Espinoza’s narrow-angled drive over the bar.
On a night where no fewer than four players made their bow in Montreal colours, their rearguard held strong and refused to be pierced a second time by Wondolowski and friends. However you do wonder if defending so deeply against better quality opposition than the struggling Quakes, would yield a similarly successful outcome.
San Jose – Daniel Vega; Guram Kashia, Harold Cummings (Danny Hoesen 74’), Marcos López, Nick Lima (Tommy Thompson 61’); Aníbal Godoy, Cristian Espinoza, Judson, Valeri Qazaishvili; Chris Wondolowski, Magnus Eriksson (Jackson Yueill 69’)
Unused Subs – Andrew Tarbell, Florian Jungwirth, Paul Marie, Shea Salinas
Montreal Impact – Evan Bush; Bacary Sagna, Víctor Cabrera, Zakaria Diallo, Daniel Lovitz; Samuel Piette, Micheal Azira, Saphir Taïder; Orji Okwonkwo (Mathieu Choinière 70’), Maximiliano Urruti, Ignacio Piatti (Zachary Brault-Guillard 85’)
Unused Subs – Clément Diop, Rudy Camacho, Jukka Raitala, Shamit Shome, Anthony Jackson-Hamel
Referee: Mr Joseph Dickerson