The pain on Luis Binks face said it all.
It had been a herculean effort by the Montreal eleven and those who entered the game later. They even threatened up until the midpoint of a gripping second-half, to turn the game on its head. But a withering Revolution responded strongly in the closing stages.
The Impact, defending ever more deeply as the final whistle approached, thought their patched up team had done enough to extend its season at least by another thirty minutes.
After all the circumstance surrounding this game, and their weary season, no-one would have denied them any stroke of luck that was heading their way.
But it wasn’t to be. Gustavo Bou, a goalscorer or creator in every start he made against the Impact this season (three before this match), maintained his record, with the very last kick of the game. The second-half was almost 95 minutes old, and the Argentine striker had enjoyed too much space from the distantly retreated Impact rearguard.
Crestfallen Binks sunk to his stocking-covered knees, his expression carrying the look of a prisoner condemned. He will eventually find release from his torment by analyzing back his own performance, as good as he’s ever been in an Impact shirt, but it will take time.
Quioto, scorer of the Impact’s 61st minute equalizer and best player this season, predictably looked like he might be the hero, but eventually not on a night that ended as it did, and not on an evening when Binks, his central defensive mentor, Fanni and Rudy Camacho performed so valiantly.
Rod Fanni will be 39 before this wretched year of 2020 is out. If last night’s was his final (and 442nd) appearance as a professional, no-one will be left unconvinced that he’s produced quality right from the beginning to the very end of his career.
The former French international’s performance defied physics and at times he seemed to find pace he had no right to possess. The north American extension to his lengthy career has been sheer testament to his professionalism.
Rudy Camacho has had a difficult year. Last night was his greatest contribution by far. It was also the first game in which he played as a deep midfielder shielding the central defensive pals he’s often lined up alongside. Maybe we finally saw a role that fits Camacho? His towering header was the assist that manufactured Quioto’s tenth goal of the season.
True to play-off form this game really could have gone either way, but ultimately despite a spirited performance of character and desire from the Montreal team, the better of the two sides won.
New England had more chances and enjoyed the better of the first-half. But even if they looked to have lost their way through the third quarter when coach Bruce Arena’s expression betrayed his persona of coolness in the days preceding the game, they again took control in the latter stages.
In Bou and Carles Gil they possess two players unlike any within the Impact squad. A goalscorer who can win a game in a moment and a play-maker who always seemed to have time and space.
It was Gil who gave them a 38th minute lead, yet another concession by Montreal in the minutes leading up to the interval. Gil drifted away from Sejdic, who was far too pedestrian, or non-existent, in his tracking and arrowed a left-foot volley across Diop and into the far corner.
The former Aston Villa man’s technique was perfect, maintaining a knee over the high ball hurtling in his direction. Exquisite execution.
It was the one lapse in Sejdic’s evening. He had a particularly good second-half, the highlight a through ball for Quioto, who at least should have got his shot away when one on one with Turner before being charged in the back by Farrell. It wouldn’t have been the biggest surprise in the world had Jair Maruffo pointed to the spot.
Diop in the first-half had produced a wonder save from Adam Buksa’s header, pushing it over via the crossbar and denied the same player again with an even better reaction to keep things level in added time. A world-class save, it looked a goal all over, but somehow the Frenchman managed to get a hand to the ball and for the second time the woodwork helped him maintain parity.
Just seconds before that at the other end, Matt Polster’s heart was in his mouth as he diverted a Montreal cross towards his own goal but, luckily for the former Rangers man, close enough to Matt Turner who clutched the ball. Montreal’s chance of a fairytale ending evaporated right then, right there.
There were immense performances all over the field by Montreal, some ordinary contributions too, but no player dipped below 100% commitment or effort in an admirable display, even if the result, and the way it was finally delivered, was as cruel as it was disappointing.
NE Revs: Turner - Buchanan (Caldwell, 50), Kessler, Farrell, Jones - McNamara (Nguyen, 63), Polster - Gil, Bou, Bunbury (Rennicks, 86) - Buksa.
Bench (not used): Knighton, Rowe, Mancienne, Sinovic, Delamea Mlinar, Manneh
IMFC: Diop - Brault-Guillard, Camacho, Binks, Fanni, Corrales (Kizza, 46) - Maciel (Okwonkwo, 57), Sejdic, Bojan - Quioto, Jackson-Hamel (Toye, 57)
Bench (not used): Pantemis, Saba, Tao, Bayiha, Giraldo, Sirois
Match Officials -
- Referee: Jair Marrufo
- Assistant Referees: Corey Rockwell, Jose da Silva
- 4th Official: Rubiel Vazquez
- VAR: Alan Kelly