Successive wins for only the second time this season. Even though this last pair are separated by 21 days, the break appeared to have done the Impact only good. At least that’s how it looked up to the interval.
The Impact had set about their task last evening with a purpose, despite an unfamiliar line-up. There weren’t any signs of ring-rust in the first 45, against a side which had played three times since the Impact last took the field.
Granted the Timbers were below strength too, but it was a better display from the home team than we’ve become accustomed to this season. It was positive, it was assured, and there were movements of cohesive, slick passing. It was entertaining and the football bright and attractive.
Things became more challenging after the break however, especially after Tomas Conechny, signed from Ignacio Piatti’s former San Lorenzo club, headed in his first MLS goal to level the scores on 53 mins. The goal was all about the deep delivery from Loria causing much confusion at the back post, the young Argentinian in the right spot to apply the finishing touch.
All of a sudden, the Impact looked leggy. The Timbers sensed the game was there for the taking. They pushed forward, a different team from the one which struggled to cope with Montreal’s fast-moving first-half display.
Williamson on 57, should’ve tapped home but his contact wasn’t clean and Raitala was able to intercept to the relief of a home crowd whose mood had transformed from confidence towards uncertainty.
At moments like this something special can lift the spirit, provide extra energy and freshen tired legs. Orji Okwonkwo’s hammer-strike, volleyed on the turn past Jeff Attinella did all of that and probably a little more. The Portland keeper may have seen the flash, be he didn’t even smell the shot as it arrowed into the top corner. 2-1, and the reaction of the Stade Saputo crowd left anyone present in no doubt, they’d just seen something special.
Taider, displaying better form in recent weeks, wrestled the scorer to the ground as team-mates piled on their congratulations.
It reminded of a 25 yarder scored by Marco Donadel against Columbus Crew into the same goal a few seasons ago. A different type of strike, Marco’s was not a volley and from further out, but one which provoked a similar wondrous reaction in the stands.
The Nigerian youngster described it as. “One of the best in my career. I’m very happy tonight that I scored one of the best goals of my career.”
It was quite a night for Okwonkwo, for it was he that put the Impact in front on 28 minutes. Not long previously he had outstripped Dielna for pace, but the post denied him when he deserved better. For the goal, Dielna was again left in the Nigerian’s wake, when Bacary Sagna’s wonderfully controlled, volleyed pass, set Okwonkwo away. This time there would be no mistake, planting his finish high into the top corner past Attinella’s despairing arm.
The Impact had a catalogue of chances in that first half, so much so that you felt they could be punished for going in at the break only on goal in front. They almost were, until that special moment in the game.
Post-match, Okwonkwo paid respect to Bacary Sagna when asked about how they had complemented each other on the right side.
“We talked to each other before the game, and I think we understand each other better now. He said, Orji, you have to listen to me. And it’s a pro player who has played at great clubs like Manchester City and Arsenal. He said if you listen to me, we’re going to kick this thing.”
“So I listen to Bacary,” smiled Okwonkwo amongst laughter from the assembled press corps.
This evening’s kick-off was delayed 45 minutes due to a severe weather warning. But one man had his own ideas about kicking up a storm, Orji Okwonkwo’s double ultimately blowing away the Timbers.
IMFC: Bush - Sagna, Cabrera, Diallo, Camacho, Raitala - Krolicki, Shome (Novillo, 86) - Okwonkwo (Choiniere, 70), Urruti, Taider.
Timbers: Attinella - Jadama, Cascante, Dielna, Farfan - Paredes, Zambrano - Loria, Conechny (Melano, 71), Williamson (Ebobisse, 76) - Asprilla (Langadorf, 90+1).
Referee - Rubiel Vazquez
Asst Refs - Andrew Bigelow, Richard Gamache
4th Official - Fotis Bazakos
VAR - Jon Freemon