MONTREAL – Alessandro Nesta is many things in soccer, but he is not a goal judge.
And hence, unfortunately for the Montreal Impact, his hand gesture as Chicago’s Chris Rolfe cleared a stoppage-time header from Matteo Ferrari didn’t mean that they had picked up a point at the death on Saturday night.
Instead, Rolfe’s goal-line clearance helped seal a 2-1 Fire victory, the latest in a disappointing run of results that have dropped Montreal from Supporters’ Shield leaders to the playoff bubble.
“We're a little upset, disappointed,” midfielder Patrice Bernier told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the game. “By putting our foot on the gas in the second half, we pushed them to the wall. We created chance after chance after half-chance. If we get one back earlier, maybe we get out of there with a 2-2 or a 2-3.
“We’re disappointed,” Bernier continued, “because we see that when we push opponents and play quickly to our strengths – moving the ball and finding the required space – we can endanger any opponent.”
Yet at the beginning, Bernier stated, the game looked as if Montreal would pick up a point from it. They started with patiently, slowly building their possession numbers and ending up with two thirds of the ball, a figure probably skewed by conceding early and often.
Just six minutes in, Joel Lindpere’s deflected strike somehow made it into Troy Perkins' net and unsettled the Impact, and Dilly Duka struck the next blow before the 25th minute mark had hit. And with that, Chicago set about protecting their lead.
“You’re forced to speed up play, you’re away, and they regroup further,” Bernier said. “Being the home team, they’re supposed to take control, but they were gladly leaving us the ball. We weren’t creating dangerous situations. They felt good. Maybe we tried to force the play through the middle starting too deep in our zone.”
Unlucky bounces and bad fortune aren’t indicated with an asterisk in the standings, however, and one win in the last eight games has pushed Montreal down to fourth place in the increasingly competitive Eastern Conference.
But after the game, head coach Marco Schällibaum calmed matters, pointing out that his group still had an opportunity to make the top three at the end of the season.
“If that had been the last game, and we weren’t in the top five, I couldn’t do anything about it,” Schällibaum said. “But there are enough games left for us to react.”