In front of over 55,000 at Olympic Stadium, the Montreal Impact of USL-1 worked off some of the side’s substantial preseason rust and were victorious 2-0 over Santos Laguna. Despite the victory which gives the Impact an excellent chance of advancing from the two leg tie, Montreal looked like a team playing in its preseason Wednesday night, being outclassed for large portions of the first half by Santos, who is in the middle of their FMF Clausura campaign.
FSC Commentator Keith Costigan, who had a good night in the booth correctly pointed out two important things early.
- After scoring an early goal, The Impact feel back into a defensive posture and weren’t connecting well due to this being first competitive match for the side after a long off season.
- Costingan also pointed out that the Impact was having some issues with the turf bounce. Keep in mind Montreal’s usual home stadium, Stade Saputo has grass.
Costigan, made the game more watchable last night than the typical FSC telecast and I suppose that is a good thing.
In the second half, Santos looked flat and at times desperate. Despite picking up a frivolous booking at the end of the first half, Roberto Brown formerly of the Colorado Rapids looked very strong in the Montreal attack. Brown was able to hold off defenders with his strength and helped Cuban-Canadian attacker Eduardo Sebrango score two goals. (Sebrango like so many other quality Cuban footballers is a defector and now has Canadian citizenship)
Adam Braz also deserves mention for his outstanding distribution from the back for the Impact. Joey Gjersten long one of USL’s best players had a poor night showing his preseason rust. But Montreal’s preseason form was spurred on by an amazingly big and active crowd, which cheered just about every touch and showed their knowledge of the beautiful game.
The Impact now go to Santos at altitude to try and defend a two goal lead. Two years ago in a similar situation in the CONCACAF Champions Cup (which did not use away goals as a tie breaker) the Houston Dynamo lost 4-2 to Pachuca and then gave up a goal in extra time to be eliminated. The Dynamo fought hard in that game but learned in Mexico, officials view the game differently than they do north of the border.
Montreal may have received even handed officiating with the exception of Brown’s yellow last night, but it is unlikely the officiating in Mexico will be quite as generous.