When the Portland Timbers rolled into Stade Saputo Sunday night for their match with the Montreal Impact, it was a tale of two under-performing teams.
The Timbers, anchored by Canadian national team member Will Johnson, were seeded 7th in the Major League Soccer Western Conference. Although only one point out of a playoff spot, the Timbers’ fan base – one of the most rabid in the league – have been expecting more of their club, which went to the conference finals last year.
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The Impact, meanwhile, are in last place in the East and simply haven’t been able to replicate the play that brought them to the postseason in 2013.
There were a handful of changes to the line-up that was put out against Real Salt Lake on Thursday.
The club stuck with the 4-2-3-1, with Evan Bush earning his third straight start in-goal.
Mamadou ‘Futty’ Danso was chosen to start at centre back because Matteo Ferrari apparently picked up a knock versus RSL. The Gambian was acquired from Portland earlier in the season.
Justin Mapp was back in the starting eleven in his usual spot on the right. Felipe replaced Callum Mallace in the defensive midfield, opening up a place for Maxim Tissot at centre attacking mid.
When you look at the bigger picture, the outlook on the Impact’s season appears bleak. When the numbers are crunched, it seems like the team will have to win 12 of their final 15 games in order to qualify for the playoffs. But, the squad isn’t giving up hope.
"“As long as it’s mathematically possible, it’s still possible…isn’t it?” – Evan Bush“When you put it that way, it looks difficult. We’re still taking it one game at a time.” – Frank KlopasSource: TVA Sports"
Speaking of Coach Klopas, he would be in the stands for this match. He was suspended one game following comments made after the mid-week game in Salt Lake City. Mauro Biello would stand in as head coach.
Biello’s time on the bench started off well. The Timbers had the majority of the possession and a few chances, but Montreal drew first blood.
In the ’13, Mapp ran down the right and just threw the ball to the top of the box. Andrés Romero took a wonderful first touch and blasted it past former Impact ‘keeper Donovan Ricketts.
Romero has played strongly in recent weeks and got his much-deserved fifth of the year. It would also serve as Mapp’s eighth assist, moving him into a tie for second in the MLS rankings.
Following the goal, Portland picked up their play. Darlington Nagbe had two quality looks at goal, but both his shots were right at Evan Bush.
Jul 27, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush (30) makes a save against Portland Timbers during the first half at the Stade Saputo. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sport
In the 34th minute, Portland manufactured an excellent move down the centre. Maximiliano Urruti made a run into the box and Heath Pearce was caught ball watching. Nagbe found Urruti, who put it off Bush’s near post and in.
Five minutes later, Portland was threatening again. Diego Valeri had the ball in the box and Hassoun Camara slid in to try to block a potential shot. Valeri cut back and Camara clipped the midfielder’s trailing leg. It was a relatively easy penalty call for referee Silviu Petreescu.
Will Johnson stepped up to take the spot kick and put it to the left side of the net. Bush guessed correctly, but couldn’t quite get a hand on it.
In six minutes, the Impact’s lead had disappeared and they found themselves in a familiar position – down a goal.
With only 90 seconds left before stoppage time, Montreal had an excellent passing sequence. Patrice Bernier, Felipe and Mapp strung together some one-touch passes before Maxim Tissot fired it into the bottom corner to tie the game.
It truly was some outstanding passing. Take a look.
Both sides had really good opportunities in the second half, but with time winding down, they each seemed happy with a tie.
But then, in the ’82, a seemingly harmless cross wound up on the foot of Valeri, who bounced it passed Bush from distance.
3-2 Portland – Final
Yeah, it happened again.
The Montreal Impact lost yet another game that they should have gotten points from. That has turned out to be the story of the season.
On the bright side, Andrés Romero and Justin Mapp continued their hot play. Maxim Tissot’s goal was a nice touch and the 22-year-old, who can also play as a defender, should be getting some more first team minutes in the future.
‘Futty’ Danso’s Impact debut ended in defeat, but he proved he can be a formidable back-up.
The Impact are now on a five-game losing skid. They better recover from the loss quickly, because rivals Toronto F.C. will be in town on August 2nd. Montreal will then receive Salvadoran side C.D. FAS on August 5th for their first game of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage.
As for Portland, they gain some ground in the West. However, all the teams near them in the standings haves games in hand.