Montreal Impact lost their second successive match in the MLS-is-Back tournament last evening in Orlando.
It was a better performance yet a defeat more bitter, coming as it did against arch-rival, Toronto FC.
At least Thierry Henry did get a response from his troops who flopped horribly a week ago against New England. But once again it took Montreal too long to settle into a game in which Toronto entered looking confident, possessing swagger and playing on the front foot.
Having highlighted to readers last week that Montreal had conceded the opening goal within the first 20 minutes of games on no fewer than 11 occasions (from 34 regular season matches), there was a sense of deja vu when Richie Laryea converted for Toronto in the 8th minute.
Shome’s covering left much to be desired, as the Toronto man found it too easy to check inside and produce the finish. It was already the Reds’ third decent chance of the game.
It wasn’t looking good for a Montreal side that looked unfamiliar and less than confident, but they rallied, hauling themselves back into the game, through Quioto’s cool finish, before falling behind twice more before the interval.
Debutant Manu Maciel had created the chance for the Honduran with a fantastic through ball that left Omar Gonzalez flailing. The pair were Montreal’s top performers on an eventful evening.
Parity was maintained for only 11 minutes however, Pozuelo and Piatti combining to set up Ayo Akinola at the back post.
Again the Impact responded. Balls played in behind the centre-backs were proving problematic for Toronto and when Taider’s exquisite pass with the outside of his boot set the excellent Quioto away, Mavinga was forced to upend him for a penalty.
Taider coolly slotted home the spot-kick, but 42 seconds later the Impact were in arrears yet again. Difficult to comprehend how a side can concede so soon after scoring, yet Montreal found a way. Pozuelo, given too much time and space throughout a first-half resembling pub-football, was again the architect, slipping the ball through a gap between Binks and Wanyama for Akinola’s pace to do the rest.
A minute before the break, Binks almost had the sides level again when his towering header smacked the foot of the post with Westberg beaten.
Never one for predictable line-ups, Thierry Henry left some expected starters on the bench. Bojan, Fanni and Brault-Guillard each began the game seated, there was a debut for Manu Maciel, and Shamit Shome started on the right side of a five-man defence.
The Impact coach is clearly still tinkering, trying to learn about his squad and you sensed his strategy was to stay in the game until two thirds the way through then introduce pace to stretch a less well-rested Toronto side. It might have worked had his own team not been so keen to ship first-half goals.
Montreal enjoying a better share of the game after the break, carved out a couple of decent opportunities to equalize, firstly when Quioto dug out a dangerous cross which Jackson-Hamel met flush with his head on 75, and after a three-man move involving Okwonkwo and Jackson-Hamel, Bojan shot goal-wards on 82. Westberg however was equal to the task on each occasion.
Just a minute after the second of those chances, Ayo Akinola, latched onto DeLeon’s downward header on halfway, outmuscled Raitala and finished confidently when faced by the on-rushing Diop. 4-2. Game over!
The young American (22), born in Toronto - watch out for the international tug-of-war - had stolen the show with his hat-trick, taking man of the match honours away from Pozuelo, whose own hat-trick of first-half assists had undone Montreal.
There was still time for Taider to add to his and the Impact’s tally, again from the penalty-spot, after Ciman handled Okwonkwo’s cross, but on 95 mins, it proved too little. too late.
The Impact were beaten again, a third defeat in as many games, as the Henry honeymoon stuttered towards a 1-3-3 record.
Last night, although there was improvement and the Impact players couldn’t be faulted for fighting spirit, Montreal simply came up against a better side, one with experience and containing leaders who know how to win football matches.
Toronto’s all round game wasn’t flawless, but they possessed enough and a young goalscoring striker, growing in confidence, did the rest.
IMFC - Diop - Shome (Brault-Guillard, 46), Raitala, Wanyama, Binks (Fanni, 46), Corrales - Piette, Shome, Maciel (Jackson-Hamel, 73), Taider - Urruti (Bojan, 68), Quioto (Okwonkwo, 79)
Toronto FC - Westberg - Auro, Gonzalez, Mavinga, Laryea (Schaffelburg, 86)- Piatti (DeLeon, 66), Bradley, Delgado (Fraser, 66), Endoh (Ciman, 59) - Pozuelo - Akinola (Dorsey, 86)
Referee: Jair Maruffo
Asst Ref: Corey Rockwell
Asst Ref: Michael Barwegan
4th Official: David Gantar
VAR: Drew Fisher