MONTREAL – Good first impression? It would seem so.
Newly-minted Impact Designated Player Hernán Bernardello started making new friends at Stade Saputo in next to no time, notching an assist 16 minutes into his debut on Hassoun Camara’s winner as Montreal defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 on Wednesday in both teams' CONCACAF Champions League opener.
The Impact take the lead in Group 5, three points ahead of the Quakes and Guatemala’s Heredia, who play their first fixture at home on August 21 against Montreal.
An indirect free kick was the source of Camara’s goal. Brad Ring fouled Marco Di Vaio on the left flank, which gave Bernardello his first chance to display his free-kick abilities. The Argentine's curled delivery was perfect, falling right into Camara’s path for the headed finish.
It could have been an altogether different game, however, as the Quakes missed a penalty kick minutes earlier. In the 10th minute, Ramiro Corrales struck a free kick won by Alan Gordon on the edge of the Montreal area, but Collen Warner handballed and was shown a yellow after referee Javier Santos pointed to the spot. Gordon took the kick, but his weak attempt was comfortably saved by Evan Bush to his right.
More bad news came the Quakes’ way minutes before halftime when Marvin Chávez immediately signaled to the bench after a wild Daniele Paponi tackle. He was replaced by Sam Garza while Paponi escaped without punishment.
The Earthquakes came out for the second half with intent and created many opportunities throughout. They came closest to equalizing five minutes after the break when a quick combination on a throw-in released Jaime Alas on the left. Alas crossed high for Garza, whose headed effort missed the target to Bush’s right.
Yet Montreal – uncharacteristically – threatened on set plays once more. Justin Mapp’s 65th-minute corner kick was cleared but the ball ended back to his feet, and his cross met Matteo Ferrari who crashed a header against the bar.
It’s back to MLS duty for both teams on Saturday. San Jose Earthquakes will travel all the way to Vancouver as they face Whitecaps at BC Place, while Montreal pay a visit to the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.