MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact needed Johan Venegas’ goal last Sunday. So did Venegas himself.
Yanked off after 45 minutes in Montreal’s 2-1 win against Toronto FC on Decision Day, Venegas couldn’t have been feeling extra special. He didn’t feature in the Knockout Round romp over TFC a few days later, and it was tough to argue with interim head coach Mauro Biello’s decision. Venegas had been ineffective.
But Venegas wasn’t left to sulk for too long. Biello sent him on midway through the second half on Sunday, and Venegas scored the 77th-minute winner as the Impact took a 2-1 lead in their Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinal tie against Columbus Crew SC. Venegas didn’t speak 1015921025" tabindex="0">on Sunday night. He exited before the locker room was open to reporters. But 1015921026" tabindex="0">this Wednesday, he reflected on the past weeks serenely.
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“It has been a bit difficult, but thank God, I experienced a moment when I could help my teammates in a bid to reach our objectives,” Venegas told reporters. “I’m glad that I’ve had an opportunity to score and help the team get ahead.”
Venegas' adaptation to MLS hasn’t been seamless. Despite a starring role for the Costa Rican national team, Venegas landed in Montreal anonymously, lost in the Didier Drogba madness. Still, the expectations were high. As Venegas prepared to sub in for his MLS debut on Aug. 5 at Stade Saputo, the stadium chanted his name for a welcome.
Venegas scored his first MLS goal on his seventh appearance, in a 3-0 home win over New England. That was the extent of his statistical contributions before last Sunday. Venegas expected a more physical league than in his native Costa Rica, but the integration has nevertheless dragged on.
Ironically, Venegas tallied the game-winner against Columbus due to his attempt to play more aggressive.
“[Michael Parkhurst] didn’t receive the ball all too well,” Venegas said. “He wanted to return inside, but I forced him outside. I used my body. He fell down. Thank God, I got the chance to shoot.”
And thankfully for the Impact, he did score. Next to him on that breakaway was one Didier Drogba, whose wrath, if Venegas had flubbed his attempt, can only be imagined.
“In the moment, honestly, I didn’t see Drogba,” Venegas said, chuckling. “I took the ball from the defender. He was the last man back. I got forward, and I decided to shoot. I was given a side of the goal, and I was determined to score.”