Add the Columbus Crew to the long list of late, gut-wrenching defeats that the Montreal Impact have had to stomach in their expansion season.
After Dallas, Colorado, Chivas USA and Philadelphia, it was the Crew's turn to deal the playoff-chasing Impact a tough loss on Saturday night in Columbus when it looked like Montreal was in pole position for a key playoff victory.
But Emilio Renteria’s stoppage-time header left the Impact in a familiar, if unpleasant, situation. After five straight wins in which they showed the ability to control a match, they again let the opposition back into a game at Crew Stadium.
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“We let the game get too wide open,” midfielder Patrice Bernier told MLSsoccer.com by phone after his team’s 2-1 road loss. “We gave them the kind of spaces that their key players can exploit.”
WATCH: Di Vaio puts Montreal up
Once the Impact earned the lead through Marco Di Vaio's classy chip on 73 minutes, Bernier feels the Impact could have done things slightly differently.
“Leading 1-0 away from home, we could have done like other teams that come to Montreal,” Bernier said. “They wait, wait, wait, and then they try to capitalize on the two or three chances they get on the counter.”
Whether or not Montreal’s backline would have held on is another matter entirely. The humidity at Crew Stadium seemed to get to the players and the Impact defenders, in particular, seemed much less mobile and organized in the latter stages.
And when Montreal turned the ball over, the gaps created gave the Columbus front four a chance to run right at the Impact backline, according to Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
“It creates the situations that you saw, and it causes us to have to chase behind and give up bad fouls,” the Impact shot stopper explained. “That's what happens with the first goal. The second, we were dead. The guys weren't marking. It happens. It was incredibly humid tonight, but we’ve just got to be able to manage it and be smart with how we play.”
Montreal will now get two weeks to catch their breath before taking on the Chicago Fire in what will surely be another crucial encounter on the road to the playoffs.
“There are five games to go,” Bernier said. “You obviously don’t want to stumble now, but in no way do we think it puts us out of the picture.”