MONTREAL – One win in six MLS games, none in 2013: The Columbus Crew just aren’t kind to the Montreal Impact.
And if Saturday’s 2-1 loss against the Crew didn’t bring enough bad memories back to Montreal, Dominic Oduro did the rest. The Ghanaian forward recorded three goals and an assist in the three games between the sides this season, and while his equalizer at Stade Saputo on April 14 was indeed beautiful, he scored a downright gorgeous one on Saturday with a massive touch of brilliance from Federico Higuain.
Consequently, Montreal manager Marco Schällibaum acknowledged after the game that the Crew were probably his side’s 2013 nemesis.
“In football, you always have a bête noire,” Schällibaum said in his postgame press conference, using the French equivalent of "bogey team." “I think we’re something of a bête noire to Kansas City, and Columbus are ours. It’s tough to explain. They don’t fit with us. Higuain always hurts us, he plays really intelligently.”
Yet Montreal had the lead thanks to Marco Di Vaio’s 18th goal of the season. Montreal always win when Di Vaio scores at home. Except against Columbus.
The Crew proved it back in April when they drew 1-1, and they took the trick further this time, especially with a playoff spot on the line – Columbus are now just two points away from fifth place, but rivals New England, Chicago and Houston have played two fewer games.
“When they got their goal, you could see that their confidence grew,” Montreal team captain Davy Arnaud said. “They go and get the second, and it’s going to be tough after that, because they're in a situation where they need points. We need points every time at home as well, but they’re fighting to get back into the playoffs. So after the second goal, it was tough.”
Both goals were particularly damaging given Montreal’s relentless pressure on the Columbus goal in the first half. The players agreed with Schällibaum’s assessment that a 2-0 scoreline would have killed the game. But when Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson didn’t make the crucial save, the chances happened to be “a centimeter away,” as the Swiss coach put it.
“Maybe on another day it's 2-0 or 3-0 at halftime,” Arnaud said. “It’s not going to be perfect every minute of every game. Ideally it would be, but at 1-0, we still created a couple of chances that we didn’t score on. Maybe on another day we would have. Unfortunately, we let them back in the game with a chance on a set piece, which is something that we spoke of before the game.”
Olivier Tremblay covers the Montreal Impact for MLSsoccer.com.