MONTREAL – A fourth straight slow start? Not an option for the Montreal Impact.
Against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Amway Canadian Championship, then Sporting Kansas City and the Columbus Crew, Montreal let the opponent take the initiative. They rallied in the first two games, a tournament-winning tie and a come-from-behind win. The Crew, however, didn’t let the Impact spark the comeback they needed.
With the Houston Dynamo in town, Marco Schällibaum’s men made sure that they wouldn’t need one. On their return to Stade Saputo, where they have yet to lose in 2013, the Impact turned to Felipe and Marco Di Vaio for first-half goals in a 2-0 win that cut off the recent issues at their source.
“We started the game like fireworks, we broke them down in the first half, and even though we respect them, we tried to get four, five, even six,” Schällibaum said in his postgame press conference. “We didn’t get them, and it was a tough game to manage at 2-0. It must be said that we weren‘t as good in the second half, but we remained solid and committed defensively. They crossed a lot but we dealt well with it.
Not coincidentally, the return to winning ways involved Alessandro Nesta. On his return from suspension, the Italian center back was once again majestic as he organized a back line that conceded only one shot on target.
With Wednesday’s win, Nesta's record in 2013 remains virtually untarnished, as the 1-1 draw against Columbus on April 14 is the only time Montreal lost points with Nesta in the starting lineup.
“I’ve always said that even when Alessandro's 80 percent match fit, I’ll always play him, because he has such a positive effect on the players,” Schällibaum said. “His experience is extraordinary, and he gives back to the team on the field.”
Yet despite the statistics that back Nesta’s priceless influence, the numerous stunning individual performances – the likes of Patrice Bernier and Daniele Paponi also weighed heavily on the Houston defense – and even the fans singing one particular player’s name at times, the Impact insist that what makes a difference sometimes can’t be quantified.
“The group is so strong,” Felipe said. “We do what the coach wants on the field. Here, we don’t have just one, two or three players. We have a group of 30 guys, and that’s the most important thing this year. We’re like friends and brothers. On the field, we win for everybody. The only thing that matters is three points. Every game.”