Saphir Taider’s deflected strike was enough for Impact to win a tight contest against DC United, who had approached the game still with a chance of winning the group. This result however means they finish bottom and face an early trip home.
It was a close call, chances were at a premium in an energetic yet cagey affair.
Once again Impact begun the game on the back foot, DC dictating the early tempo but after the opening ten minutes Montreal came more into the contest, possessing the ball better and more effectively throughout the remainder of the half.
DC, possibly feeling the effects of playing their third game in nine days found themselves defending deeper as the first 45 progressed. The Impact however were more effective maintaining possession than creating opportunities, yet you sensed as they upped the pressure, a goal might not be far away.
And so it proved. The unfortunate Frederic Brilliant in central defence for United played a pivotal role, firstly in slicing a clearance wildly towards his own goal from close range but clearing the bar, and from the resultant corner deflecting Taider’s shot beyond Hamid’s dive and into the net.
It was minute 31. Taider had taken a short pass from Bojan, wasn’t closed down quickly enough, and let fly. Advantage Montreal.
The pendulum should have swung more emphatically Montreal’s way four minutes later when Felipe was more than fortunate not to receive a straight red card for a nasty foul on Wanyama. Mr Chilowicz, the referee, was alerted by the VAR team, who carried out their task well, but after a visit to the monitor decided the already issued ‘yellow’ was enough punishment for the former Impact man. A strange (and very lenient) decision.
Despite DC United raising their energy levels in the second-half and enjoying more of the ball, they only really found a way to goal just short of the hour mark, and both times it was Clement Diop’s feet to the rescue.
Diop appeared to be caught out with the first of those efforts in the 57th minute, changing direction before blocking Segura’s 20 yarder with his boot. A minute later the lively Paredes on the end of a right-wing cross, side-footed towards goal but again Diop’s quick feet saved the day.
Despite enjoying most of the possession over the remainder of the game, DC were unable to carve out another worthwhile chance, such was the Impact’s doggedness and determination in defending their slender lead. It wasn’t a vintage performance by the Montrealers by any means, but on this night there was certainly no question marks raised against fighting spirit or lack thereof.
Indeed Maxi Urruti, without a goal in this tournament so far was unlucky not to put a lid on things on 68 mins after taking Bojan’s header and bending his shot around a defender. Hamid was well-beaten in goal, but the ball forcefully rapped the inside of the far post and rebounded the wrong way for the Argentinian forward.
A second goal would have further enhanced Montreal’s chances of progress towards the round of 16, although the one goal margin of victory could yet prove enough. Impact fans will collectively hold their breath as the final group games play out hoping to secure a spot as one of the best four third-placed teams.
Thierry Henry in the press conference afterwards admitted that at times it wasn’t pretty, “... but we won and that’s the main thing,” adding, “It was pretty against Toronto... and we lost!”
The Impact coach would have been particularly pleased with the clean-sheet, the Impact’s first in an MLS game outside Montreal since a 3-0 victory at New England over a year ago, in April 2019.
IMFC - Diop - Brault-Guillard (Shome, 86), Fanni, Binks, Corrales - Piette, Wanyama, Bojan, Taider - Urruti (Okwonkwo, 70), Quioto (Jackson-Hamel, 90+1)
DCU - Hamid - Odoi-Atsem (Higuain, 70), Brilliant, Birnbaum, Mora - Canouse, Moreno (Fisher, 83)- Gressel, Felipe, Asad (Kamara, 70) - Segura (Yow, 83)
Match Officials -
Referee: Alex Chilowicz
Asst Ref: Apolinar Mariscal
Asst Ref: Felisha Mariscal
4th Official: Guido Gonzales Jnr
VAR: Rubiel Vazquez
Asst VAR: Kathryn Nesbitt