MONTREAL – Still perfect, and now in a better mood.
The Montreal Impact weren’t the happiest bunch last Saturday after their 2-1 win against Toronto FC – which, to their critical eyes, felt lacking despite counting as their third triumph in as many games.
But there were no such comments after Montreal’s 1-0 win against the New York Red Bulls at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Brandon Barklage’s red card brought back memories of last season, when New York managed – without the ejected Victor Pálsson – to grab a winner at the Big O, but there would be no repeat of recent history this time around.
Instead, a fourth straight win gave Montreal plenty of reasons to be delighted with their MLS-best start.
“When you’re first, 18 other teams want to be in your place,” head coach Marco Schällibaum said. “We have to defend our mountain. When you’re up there, you have a great view and the sun always shines. Down there, it’s greyer, it’s raining – or snowing around here. That’s what I tell the players: when you’re up there, you have to defend your spot at all times.”
Montreal’s perfect record will last another week at least, before they face a team that knows very well what it's like to deal with an early season winning streak: Sporting Kansas City.
For now, though, Schällibaum was plenty content with his teams performance, even if the Swiss tactician would have hoped for another goal to truly kill the game off.
“We managed the game well, we let the ball roll a bit and we created the chances,” he said. “We wanted that second goal. We can’t sit deep and wait for the game to end.”
Montreal’s defensive solidity was all the more impressive considering youngster Karl W. Ouimette, an Impact academy product, was chosen ahead of Dennis Iapichino and Zarek Valentin. Ouimette got his first MLS start on the day at center back, lining up between Hassoun Camara and Matteo Ferrari, and looked undaunted by the task in front of him.
All told, the Impact looked right at home protecting first place, getting on the board early through Marco Di Vaio then closing the door on the visitors as the match wore on to prevent a repeat of last year's events.
“We got together at the middle of the field [after the red card] and we said, ‘This is the exact same situation,’” left back Jeb Brovsky told the media after the game. “They had some fresh legs coming in the end and they were pushing guys forward. Credit to our guys: We stayed solid, we stayed compact and we ended the game pretty well.”