Preboarding screening might be tricky when the Montreal Impact leave Italy, for they showed nerves of steel on Thursday night in Florence.
After struggling to find their rhythm last Thursday in their 1-0 loss against Bologna, the Montreal players looked relaxed and confident on the Stadio Artemio Franchi grass, where they had the better of Serie A side Fiorentina by a score of 1-0.
Marco Di Vaio notched the only goal in the 25th minute. Uncharacteristically for the Impact, it came from a set-piece: a back pass gave them an indirect free kick inside the penalty area, which the Italian duly converted after a lead pass from trialist Andrea Pisanu.
Moreover, their defense was as sturdy as it has ever been this season. Matteo Ferrari and Hassoun Camara, in particular, were both superb.
“With the quality of players they had on the field, our players responded very well,” interim head coach Mauro Biello said in a postgame conference call. “With the kind of game they played, we were able to hold them off. We suffered a little bit in the first half, but we applied our game plan of getting the ball wide quickly when we won it back.”
Remarkably, Montreal looked more likely to score a second than Fiorentina to equalize until halftime and looked increasingly at ease. Fullbacks Jeb Brovsky and Camara were very brave with their positioning at times and created chances by intercepting balls near the halfway line.
Viola coach Vincenzo Montella thus felt compelled to give minutes to first-team players that had been key in the weekend’s 3-1 win away at Milan.
“They made changes in the second half, put on [David] Pizarro, [Borja] Valero, Luca Toni and other players that played against Milan,” Biello said. “Credit goes to our players, because I made changes, too, gave minutes to almost everyone including the trialists, and I credit them for the way they played like a team.”
Midfielder Patrice Bernier, who wore the armband for Montreal – Davy Arnaud came off the bench for the second half – called his team’s effort a “solid performance.”
“They can’t say they didn’t play their best players, because they all were on the field at some point,” Bernier said “It’s great to end the season on such a good note against such a good Serie A team.”
The Impact are expected back in Montreal on Saturday.