Fifteen minutes sank the Montreal Impact.
Montreal were down a man and down a goal by minute 16, setting the tone for a 2-1 loss at New York Red Bulls that saw Ambroise Oyongo, against his former team, handle on the goalline for a penalty kick. A crystal-clear one.
Impact interim coach Mauro Biello admitted as much after the game, though he needed a replay to confirm. To him, the call didn’t cost his team the game. Even before the Oyongo handball, Biello was unhappy with the Impact’s start and with good reason: this didn’t look like a team trying to comfort their spot just above the red line.
“[Red cards] are things that happen, but I can’t accept such a start to the game,” Biello said. “We want to be a team that makes the playoffs, and 10-15 minutes like that to start the game on the road is not a great way to do so.”
Sacha Kljestan coolly slotted his penalty kick down the middle. He got a second opportunity after a Donny Toia foul on Lloyd Sam. Goalkeeper Evan Bush, solid on his line throughout the game, dived to his left and made the save – after some Didier Drogba mindgames.
Bush was powerless to stop Sam's second, taken from distance, after coming off his line.
“It’s a tough loss,” forward Dominic Oduro said. “Again, we’re still not out [of the playoff picture]. Our chances of getting in are still higher, compared to Orlando. But we’ve just got to learn from our mistakes. Two games in a row, we lose 2-1. We have to go back, breathe in a little bit. We control our destiny. The ball’s basically in our court. It’s just a matter of how we want to place it.”
There are reasons for Montreal to approach their next game, this Saturday at Colorado, in good spirits. Their commendable second half performance featured Drogba’s eighth, scored on a PK. They’ll also finally recover Ignacio Piatti, whom the Montreal staff judged needed another session with the reserve team this Wednesday morning to get back to full fitness after 17 hours on a plane from Argentina to Montreal on Sunday.
“I told my players that, right now, we’re in the playoffs, and every game is like a playoff game,” Biello said. “If you want to carry on playing in the playoffs, you have to win. This is the idea. We want to grab points. We’ve got an important game in Colorado. We’ll try to pick up points and carry on. All we can do is focus on that game ahead of us.”