MONTREAL – The Impact continued their perfect start to the MLS season with their third straight win, a 2-1 Rivalry Week victory in the 401 Derby against Toronto FC in front of 37,896 at Olympic Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Patrice Bernier and Marco Di Vaio scored their first goals of the season, the former from the penalty spot, to send home a record number of traveling Toronto supporters empty-handed although TFC forward Robert Earnshaw gave them momentary hope with his third of the season to cut the deficit.
Di Vaio, who expressed his disappointment at his lack of goals in the lead-up to the match, showed his intentions early on, sending two attempts into the arms of Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik in the first seven minutes.
Montreal created another good chance in the 9th minute, but Andrea Pisanu was unable to get on the end of Felipe’s cross after some clever play on the left side.
Impact central defender Alessandro Nesta left the match due to an apparent muscle injury after 12 minutes and it signaled the beginning of TFC’s pressure on the goal defender by Impact 'keeper Troy Perkins. As the momentum shifted, the Reds pinned Montreal back into their own half on several occasions, but could not add to Ashtone Morgan’s lone shot of the first half.
Morgan later conceded the penalty that led to the Impact’s opener, in the 34th minute. Fittingly, it was the man who converted from the spot, Patrice Bernier, who released Andres Romero into space on the right. The assistant referee flagged for a foul as Morgan and Romero collided in the box, and Bernier converted with his typical stutter-step approach.
Toronto seemed taken aback by the turn of events, and Montreal immediately seized the momentum. Davy Arnaud sent a through ball for Di Vaio in first-half injury time and the Italian's composed finish after rounding Bendik gave the league leaders a 2-0 halftime lead.
Ryan Nelsen’s team talk at the break seemingly paid dividends, as his players upped the pressure early in the second half. TFC came close twice in the first eight minutes, most spectacularly in the 52nd minute as Hogan Ephraim's strike was tipped onto the crossbar and out by Perkins.
TFC got their reward in the 67th minute as Impact left back Dennis Iapichino was whistled for an off-the-ball foul in the penalty area on Toronto's Terry Dunfield. For the second consecutive week, Earnshaw coolly slotted the penalty kick home.
Toronto had several well-placed set pieces in the Impact’s attacking third late in the match, but they would go to waste as Montreal held strong and expertly managed the game well.
TFC will enjoy a bye week before their next game, at BMO Field against the Los Angeles Galaxy on March 30 (2 p.m. ET). Montreal have a date next Saturday, March 23, as they host the New York Red Bulls at Olympic Stadium (4:30 p.m. ET, MLS LIVE).
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Patrice Bernier (MTL)||Commanding match from central midfield. Intercepted balls, kept plays moving and set the tempo for Montreal.|
|2||Marco Di Vaio (MTL)||In a tight match, the designated player's sublime finish is the difference.|
|3||Davy Arnaud (MTL)||All over the field as usual, but it's his attacking quality, which may still go underrated, that creates the game-winner among other chances.|
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.