It was precisely 46 days ago, almost to the hour. A carton of milk cost $1.79, a litre of gas cost $1.38 and Barack Obama was the President of the United States. Yes, the date was June 29th, 2014 – the last time the Montreal Impact won a Major League Soccer match.
But, that date means little to nothing now, as the Impact have snapped their seven game losing skid in the MLS in taking down the Chicago Fire. Sure, they beat Salvadorian side CD FAS in CONCACAF Champions League, but the regular season still haunted them.
This match with the Fire would be a reunion of sorts for many members of the Impact, none more so than head coach Frank Klopas. Klopas won the MLS Cup and the U.S. Open Cup as a player with Chicago in 1998. He would then go on to manage the team from 2011 to 2013. This would be the first time he was coaching against his former employers.
There were three other ex-Fire players on the Montreal roster as well. Justin Mapp spent over seven seasons in Chicago, appearing in 174 matches. Krzysztof Krol played under Klopas in the Windy City in 2010 (but was not in the lineup for this match) and Dilly Duka was acquired from the Fire just last month. Duka was given the start in central midfield.
However, the big story on the night was the debut of new designated player Ignacio Piatti. The Argentine arrived in Montreal on Wednesday and Klopas gave him the start on the left side of midfield.
Piatti’s Impact career started off pretty well. The 29-year-old made two strong runs through the defense and even found himself facing goal with the ball at his feet, but couldn’t finish.
In the first half, you couldn’t say that Montreal was dominating the game, neither were the Fire though. Each side had their fair share of chances, but couldn’t convert.
In the ’37, Fire defender Lovell Palmer whipped in a dangerous ball behind the defense. Evan Bush, making his fourth start of the season, tipped it out of danger and Hassoun Camara cleared his lines.
The half-time whistle would blow with both sides still unable to find the back of the net.
Very early in the second half, Chicago found themselves with a free kick about 25 yards from goal. Jeff Larentowicz struck the ball right through a poorly made wall, but Bush was on his toes and made a fairly easy save.
Shortly thereafter, Piatti was on the receiving end of a hard tackle from Fire forward Alex. He was slow to get up and subbed off for fellow Argentine Andrés Romero.
In his debut, Piatti showed some good pace through the midfield. He seems to be forming a promising chemistry with Marco Di Vaio, which could serve the Impact well as the season wears on.
After being taken off, Piatti was spotted on the bench with ice on his left knee. Joey Alfieri of CJAD 800 later reported that the injury was sustained back in Argentina and was not a result of the Alex challenge.
As the rain started to fall harder, it started to look like it would end in a scoreless draw.
Then, in the 80th minute, there was a breakthrough for the Impact. Eric Miller received a pass in the Fire box, but was surrounded by defenders. One of them knocked the ball free, but Miller managed to toe-poke it to Di Vaio, who was lurking on the top of the 18. The Italian made no mistake it slotting home perfectly in the far corner.
And that’s how it would end.
The win was Evan Bush’s first in the MLS and his first career shutout. The American made two saves in the winning effort.
Although the spotlight was on Frank Klopas facing his old team, the coach was quick to congratulate his players on a well deserved three points.
It feels good,” he said in a press release post-game. “It took us a while to feel like this. There`s a lot of games that we could have walked away with points, but you need to move forward. Today was a good overall performance by the group. The subs we made gave us a lot of added energy at the right time.”
As for Piatti, he is looking forward to the rest of the year in Montreal. He said this to the Impact’s Joey Strizzi after the game.
“For my first game, I think that I played well enough and that the team had a solid performance. We played well together. I knew about MLS beforehand, knew the style of play so there was no surprise for me, but I still will have to adapt my style of play.”
The Fire are in eighth place in the MLS Eastern Conference, tied with the Houston Dynamo on 25 points. Chicago has been playin well this season, but have failed to capitalize on opportunities. They lead the league with an astounding 13 draws.
Chicago will travel to face Toronto F.C. on August 23rd.
As for the Impact, they now sit on 17 points, but a disappointing eight back of ninth place. Montreal makes to long trek to El Salvador this week, to play the second game with CD FAS on Wednesday. Their next MLS game will be on August 23rd in New York against the Red Bulls.