MONTREAL – A perfect record. Nine points out of nine. You would think the MLS-leading Montreal Impact would be overjoyed, right?
“I saw the players, they’re not happy,” Montreal head coach Marco Schällibaum told the media after his team’s 2-1 win against archrivals Toronto FC. “And that’s a good sign, because they know that it wasn't a good second half.”
FULL MATCH STATISTICS AND BOX SCORE
Montreal started well, creating a number of chances before central defender Alessandro Nesta was forced off with an adductor injury 12 minutes in. Toronto smelled blood after the defensive reorganization and could have hurt Montreal. But with two goals in a productive last quarter-hour of the first half, the Impact looked very much in control of their home opener, taking a 2-0 halftime lead on goals by Patrice Bernier (PK, right) and Marco Di Vaio (below, right).
Yet Toronto fought back after the break with two great chances in quick succession in the first 10 minutes of the second stanza, eventually grabbing a spot kick goal. The Impact suddenly looked vulnerable again.
“We got them back into the game ourselves by committing mistakes,” Montreal midfielder Patrice Bernier told reporters. “We went back out there [for the second half] thinking that we’d already won.”
Added Schällibaum: “Grabbing the 1-0 and 2-0 goals was important for us, but in the second half, we suffered a lot. But those are the games that help us grow.”
That silver lining didn’t convince his players, though. In the Impact locker room, players looked disappointed despite guaranteeing themselves another week at the top of the Eastern Conference on full points.
“We all felt a little disappointed coming into the locker room,” Montreal defender Hassoun Camara said. “We've got three points, and defending well is a virtue, but I think we could have done a lot better in the second half.
“We should have kept playing and not concentrated on defending. Yet I feel that it’s positive that we do have a lot to work on and that we’re first with nine points. Maybe we would have lost that game, last year.”
Like many before him, captain Davy Arnaud cast a damning light on his team’s second half. But the 11-season MLS veteran, who has lived his fair share of hard-fought battles over the years, was also among those who preferred to see the bright side.
“If we’re honest with ourselves, that was our worst half of the year,” Arnaud said. “But we still come out with three points, and in MLS, you have to grind out results sometimes.”