Montreal Impact choose to focus on lackluster play, not red cards after playoff elimination

Marco Di Vaio and Andrés Romero getting into a scuffle and leaving the field, red-carded, was no foreshadowing of postmatch reactions.

The Montreal Impact's 3-0 defeat to the Houston Dynamo on Thursday in the Knockout Round stung them, but the disappointment in seeing their first playoff campaign come to such an early end was expressed rather quietly. While head coach Marco Schällibaum recognized that the three red cards “were not good for the club’s image,” he mostly talked about the actual soccer game that was played, as did his players.

“We must look at ourselves and say that we were beat today by a better team,” defender Jeb Brovsky told reporters. “To their credit, they smelled blood and they killed us. To finish a game like that is a shame for the players, for the club. You never want to go out that way, and I’m not happy. I’m not happy at all.”

Rewind: MLSsoccer.com Postgame Live

Yet Montreal’s start was encouraging. They drove forward with purpose, applying lessons learned from their most recent trip to BBVA Compass Stadium, a 1-0 loss on Oct. 4.

On Thursday, Di Vaio was caught offside twice in the first five minutes. That’s usually a sign that he’s going to be involved. This time, it wasn’t.

“We found space behind their defense a lot,” Di Vaio told reporters. “The last time we were here, we played short and we pressed a lot, but lost lots of balls. So we went another way, looked behind their defense like at home. And we did get opportunities, but having conceded two goals, it got more difficult.”

Schällibaum argued that the first-half goals gave Houston great confidence to play around the Impact – all the more so when Nelson Rivas’ second yellow in the 70th minute left them shorthanded.

“I’m very disappointed, because we wanted to make it 2-1,” Schällibaum said. “That way, we could have turned the game around, but we couldn’t. It’s been this way for weeks. If we don’t score, we don’t have a chance.”

That issue will certainly figure in the offseason analysis. Montreal struggled to stab the ball home in the last stretch, scoring two in their last six. Di Vaio couldn’t tell whether it was a physical or mental issue, but rightfully pointed out that this had been a new experience for everyone, and his teammates concurred.

“It’s sad that it finishes like that, but I feel like looking back at the rest of the season” defender Hassoun Camara said. “The Dynamo deserved their win, but there are nights like these where you learn for the future. That’s the way it is. We must learn and get stronger for next year.”