Road points have been few and far between for the Montreal Impact this season, which makes Sunday’s 1-0 win against New England that much sweeter.
Ever since their headline-grabbing win at Sporting Kansas City on May 5, Montreal had been unable to put points in the bank at opposition grounds, though they came close to drawing in Colorado, in Los Angeles against Chivas USA and in Philadelphia.
Coupled with their lone away draw – 1-1 against D.C. United in April – only four points out of a possible 36 had gone the Impact’s way on the road before the weekend. Leaving Gillette Stadium with all three points in the midst of an against-the-odds battle for a playoff spot is a huge step for Montreal, though they insist they were not trying to prove a point to the other Eastern Conference contenders, but merely focusing on a crucial game.
HIGHLIGHTS: NE 0, MTL 1
“We don’t particularly try to send a message to other teams because we concentrate on our tasks this season,” defender Hassoun Camara (above, left) told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Sunday. “This great group deserves to achieve its objectives. We know where we want to go, we really want to get there and this is just one step, with eight others remaining.”
The ambitious signing of legendary center back Alessandro Nesta has visibly revitalized the Montreal backline, which has now conceded a solitary goal – or two, if the Impact’s 1-1 (2-4 on penalties) friendly tie with Olympique Lyonnais is considered – since his arrival.
This being said, Nesta did not face his first away test in MLS on Sunday, as he was nursing a knee sprain. The Italian’s leadership and influence nevertheless inspired the center-back pairing of Camara and Matteo Ferrari, who both displayed cleverness in not conceding fouls in dangerous areas, which has been the Impact’s Achilles’ heel.
“After Sanna [Nyassi]’s goal, we knew this was becoming a totally different game,” Camara said. “We absolutely had to protect our lead and remain very strong defensively. That’s what we tried to do, and we got our reward in the end.”
One player whose first test did materialize is goalkeeper Troy Perkins, freshly acquired from the Portland Timbers last week. He passed with flying colors, celebrating his first game as an Impact player with an all-important goose egg.
“It wasn’t so easy for him, for it was his first week with us, with limited time to adapt,” Camara said. “But we discussed things with him, I took some time to do so personally, and we tried to put that into practice right away. It was very important to grab all three points here and I think we did really well.”