Montreal Impact's secret two games in? "We've learned to win on the road"
As if winning away in Seattle wasn’t impressive enough.
Two games into 2013, Montreal have already picked up as many road wins as in the whole of last season, thanks to a 2-1 hard-fought victory over the Portland Timbers on Saturday. Hassoun Camara’s spectacular overhead goal and Felipe’s right footed finish wrapped up an unexpectedly perfect eight days in Cascadia.
How things have changed.
“We had to know how to win on the road,” assistant coach Mauro Biello told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the game. “It was our undoing last season, and we worked a lot on preparing well in order to win away from home, and that's what we did. We defended well and created chances. They had much more of the ball, but in the end, we created three or four clear-cut chances.”
The Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic might be a preseason tournament, but Biello credits the event with instilling confidence in the group. And Montreal’s defense is coming across as very, very solid indeed.
While the later months of last season did offer, in distant flashes, a preview of things to come on the defensive side, Marco Schällibaum’s team have looked a far cry from the 2012 Impact that conceded a silly goal every so often. Montreal held strong at JELD-WEN Field, defending their territory so doggedly that Ryan Johnson’s consolation marker looked more like an unfortunate hindrance than like a return to old habits.
“Portland deserve credit,” Biello conceded. “It was an excellent cross. I can’t blame one person in particular; their goal was well worked-out. It happens. But we remained solid and we held on despite the pressure at the end.”
Johnson, in all fairness, would have added a second as the Timbers desperately pushed forward, had it not been for Hassoun Camara’s last-ditch tackle in stoppage time.
The sequence, Camara explained, is a tribute to how all Impact players strive to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
“Any one of us would have done the same on that play,” Camara told MLSsoccer.com. “That's what makes us strong this year: I'm there for Alessandro [Nesta], and he’s there for me. I’m there for Matteo [Ferrari] and Jeb [Brovsky], and so are they. We’ve been working very hard to defend as a unit.”