First-half leads slip away from Impact at Red Bull Arena

Jesse Marsch pounds fist against Red Bulls

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HARRISON, N.J. – Just when it looked like the Montreal Impact had a chance to pick up points away from home, it all crumbled.

Inspired by about 200 traveling fans, the Impact twice took the lead against New York at Red Bull Arena in the first half on Saturday through Sanna Nyassi and Justin Mapp. The goals gave Montreal a 2-1 lead it appeared they'd take to halftime

The Red Bulls' last attack of the half, however, led to Matteo Ferrari, who declined to speak to the media for fear of facing disciplinary action, fouling Dax McCarty in the area, a challenge that got the ball, but was deemed a penalty by referee Michael Kennedy.

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And with the Impact’s advantage hanging in the balance, it all went downhill from the moment Kenny Cooper converted from the spot, eventually ending in a 5-2 Impact loss.

“I think there was a lot of frustration from everybody at halftime,” Montreal head coach Jesse Marsch told reporters after the game. “We tried to maintain the focus to the game at hand because we still felt that if we continued to play like we did in the first half, that we’d be able to find chances and get a lead.”

Midfielder Patrice Bernier, who probably played his best game yet for the Impact, agreed with his coach, but also indicated the team might have been exasperated by what they perceived as another refereeing mistake.

“The penalty is frustrating for sure, but we probably could have taken a 3-1 lead,” Bernier recognized. “We had good opportunities in the first half, and I thought we were the better team then. Maybe we were a bit frustrated when entering the dressing room, because, once again, refereeing played a role in the game.”

Reality nevertheless hits the Impact hard. Far from attributing the defeat to the referee’s decision, players and coach alike agreed the loss was down to Thierry Henry’s play.

Said Marsch: “He killed us. Every time he touched the ball, he killed us.”

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Of course, Montreal took the blame for their part in Henry’s play as well, admitting they allowed New York too much space and time on the ball in the second half.

“When you’re coming to halftime at 0-0 or 2-2, it's still anybody's game,” left back Josh Gardner said. “I thought we had better chances in the first half. We were a little unfortunate not to score maybe one or two more.”

I don’t think that penalty changes anything. It’d be nice to go into halftime with the lead, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to come out and compete. We cannot give up three goals in the second half.”

Bernier probably summed it up the best.

“They upped their game,” he said. “We didn’t follow.”