MONTREAL – The Impact are back on top of the mountain. At least for a few hours.
Thanks to a 2-0 win against the Chicago Fire on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Stade Saputo, Montreal returned to first place in the Eastern Conference pending Sporting Kansas City's match later Saturday.
Argentinean striker Andres Romero scored his first career MLS goal and Designated Player Marco Di Vaio applied the finishing touches in the 76th minute with his fourth goal of the season to give Montreal the tidy win in front of 19,773 fans.
With the loss, Chicago are still tied for seventh in the East, but they will be without midfielder Jeff Larentowicz for their next match after he picked up a red card for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity in the 64th minute.
Chicago mostly relied on set plays in the first half as they absorbed pressure in their territory and then looked to expose Montreal down the flanks. But their most dangerous attacks were limited to long-distance shots aside from an early Patrick Nyarko run in the box which was snuffed out by expert Montreal defender Alessandro Nesta.
Montreal suffered a blow shortly after the break when Nesta was forced off with an apparent groin injury. Academy product Wandrille Lefèvre replaced the Italian in central defense and almost immediately had an impact … on offense.
Lefèvre's long pass from the right in the 57th minute reached Andrea Pisanu, who fed Romero on the left wing. Romero tricked his way past Chicago right back Logan Pause and curled a beauty to the top right corner for the opening strike.
The game took a turn midway through the second half, when Larentowicz was sent off for tripping up Pisanu on a run toward goal.
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Chicago manager Frank Klopas sent on Maicon Santos in a bid to at least pick up a point, but Di Vaio wrapped up the game for Montreal with his low, delicate finish in the 76th minute after newcomer Daniele Paponi served him a ball in the box.
Paponi joined Di Vaio up top for his MLS debut. The Impact's No. 35 combined to great effect with former Bologna teammates Di Vaio and Pisanu and was nearly rewarded in the 82nd minute when Johnson stoned him from close range.
The second leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal against Toronto FC awaits the Impact this Wednesday at Stade Saputo, where they will hope to overcome a 2-0 aggregate-goal deficit. Chicago, meanwhile, won’t be back on the field until May 11, when they welcome the Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Andres Romero (MTL)||Romero's moment of brilliance on the first goal lit up a match that didn't look like it had a goal in it.|
|2||Alessandro Nesta (MTL)||Before coming out early in the 2nd half, the Italian central defender was the best player on the pitch with classy defensive plays.|
|3||Daniele Paponi (MTL)||Not a shabby debut for the Italian forward. No goals, but he assisted on Di Vaio's strike and showed impressive back-to-goal play, winning several headers for his teammates.|