When the Montreal Impact rolled into Columbus for their match up with the 7th place Crew, it would be a battle of the two most out of form teams in the MLS Eastern Conference.
The Impact, sitting in last place in the conference, had lost their last two games due to late, heartbreaking goals.
The Crew meanwhile, have been having struggles of their own; they were winless in their last eight matches.
One side would have to break out of their slump…right?
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Montreal coach Frank Klopas was determined to make sure his team would come out on top.
Ahead of the game, the coach made a major change to his starting eleven. He decided to give Evan Bush his first start of the season in-goal, instead of veteran Troy Perkins. This would be only the third MLS start for the 28-year-old. Since the Impact joined the league back in 2012, Bush has been used exclusively for Canadian Championship and CONCACAF Champions League matches.
The move comes a week after a poor performance from Perkins. He seemed to be weak on both goals in a 2-1 lose to Sporting K.C., and there were more than a few pundits who were calling for Klopas to give Bush a shot.
But, this is most likely a one time thing. When you factor in Perkins’ below average play (largely due to overuse) and the fact that Bush is a Ohio native and an Akron University alum, they are probably just giving Perkins a much-needed break.
"“There are moments in the season when one guy’s not in the best form and the other guy is. You have to reward the guy who is.” – Frank Klopas"
Regardless, number 30 would be patrolling the Montreal penalty area rather than number 1.
The game started off a bit slow, but the Crew had a glorious opportunity. In the ’15, a corner was whipped in dangerously from the left of Bush. It bounced around and the Impact defenders failed to cleared it. It finally fell right on the foot of right back Chad Barson, who was in the six yard box with his back to goal. Fortunately for Montreal, Barson showed why he is a defender and took a wild swing at it, sending it hopelessly wide.
In the ’34, the Impact got a break. Justin Mapp intercepted the ball on the right flank and dribbled it towards the box. He picked out striker Marco Di Vaio, who tried to put it through center back Giancarlo Gonzalez. He didn’t, but he got it right back and beat goalkeeper Steve Clark with a hard shot along the ground. It was his fourth goal of the season and Mapp’s seventh assist.
Jul 19, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Montreal Impact forward Marco Di Vaio (left) is congratulated by teammate Justin Mapp (21) following his first half goal versus Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Three minutes before half time, Columbus had a chance as Adam Bedell set up Federico Higuain at the back post. Higuain let loose a vicious strike. Left back Krzysztof Krol, who was out of position, slid in to block what would surely have been a goal, preserving Montreal’s lead heading into the break.
In the second half, the Crew had the majority of the possession, but weren’t really threatening. Then, out of no where, Bernardo Anor let out an unstoppable shot from about 20 yards out. Bush dove, but didn’t have a good look at the ball and couldn’t react quick enough.
The two teams traded chances and Clark was having a great game, denying three strong Impact chances. The American would end the game with five saves.
Then, in the ’75, Anor was at it again. He had picked up an errant pass at the centre line and dribbled, uncontested, all the way to the top of the box. The Venezuelan then rocketed a shot into the right side of the net. The strike was simply too powerful and too well placed for Bush to do anything about it.
Anor’s brace put the Crew up for good. His two markers were his first goals since Columbus’ second game of the season, back on March 22nd.
Although it was a losing effort, the Impact showed promise in the attacking third. Andrés Romaro had his best game in a while and Di Vaio seemed to be having his way with the Crew defense. Midfielder Felipe showed some menace going forward as well.
Montreal is improving, but still just can’t seem to win.
“That’s the first time this season that I can say I’m at a loss of words,” said defender Heath Pearce. “Of course it feels like, since the very first game of the season, we’ve been swimming against the current.”
Coach Klopas pointed to some slow defending as the cause of Anor’s two strikes.
“I think we could have stepped [up] on him a little bit quicker and we didn’t. It’s games like this you feel you’ve got to get something out of.”
The Impact have a mid-week tie with Real Salt Lake, in Utah on Thursday before returning home to face the Portland Timbers on Sunday, July 27th. They remain in 10th place in the East.
The Crew have not gained any ground in the standings because 6th place Philadelphia drew their match. The Crew will next be facing the New England Revolution, on the road on July 26th.