For 60 minutes, on Saturday night, it looked as if the Montreal Impact might just leave Toyota Park with a well-contested point.
But that was before center back Alessandro Nesta’s wayward delivery gifted the Fire’s Alex possession in front of the box. After a quick detour by Álvaro Fernández’s boots, the ball came back to Alex, and the Brazilian’s shot gave Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins no chance.
It had all started so well. Montreal conceivably could have given themselves a multiple-goal lead in the first 20 minutes. Hassoun Camara had an early goal disallowed before he headed a brilliant pass Marco Di Vaio’s way for the Impact’s actual opener. Fire ‘keeper Sean Johnson did not have to jump out of his footwear to make saves, but he did stop five shots in the opening 20 minutes.
“Honestly, it’s tough … it’s tough,” team captain Davy Arnaud (above, left) told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “Especially when we get the lead and we were playing well, to go behind is not an easy situation. We had to keep going at it, keep creating chances and, yeah, at that point, we opened ourselves up a little bit if we were going to get a result. The third goal kind of finishes it.”
The Impact’s promising start could have hampered their progression in the later stages of the second half, where it almost seemed like they, not Chicago, had played on Wednesday. The Montreal players were not, however, surprised when the Fire came out with such intent.
"They pushed, but I feel like we pushed the game as well,” Arnaud said. “We were organized, and we put pressure on them at good moments.”
The result leaves Montreal in a bad place, however. They are now five points behind fifth-place D.C. United in the Eastern Conference, and every direct opponent in the race for the playoffs still has valuable games in hand.
“We know that our back is up against the wall now,” midfielder Justin Mapp (above, center) said. “Four games remaining, given the standings, there’s really no room for error.”
But confidence and optimism remain.
“There’s still 12 points out there for us to go and get,” Arnaud said. “And I think we're more than capable of doing it.”