“We have to start thinking that perhaps a point on the road is very good,” Montreal Impact forward Marco Di Vaio said on Thursday.
Chances are that few Impact fans will use that adjective to describe the aesthetic qualities of Montreal’s 0-0 draw away at the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. But its value in keeping the Impact among the very top teams in the Eastern Conference standings will indeed please many, including the Montreal Impact staff.
Impact assistant coach Mauro Biello, who was in charge on Saturday night with head coach Marco Schällibaum suspended, labeled the point an “important” one against one of many East rivals: Montreal remain in first place, but they’re now one of three teams on 42 points, with Philadelphia sitting fourth on 39.
“Philadelphia are behind us, we have two games in hand, and we were able to grab that point,” Biello told reporters by phone after the game. “We're still playing another game against them at home, so keeping those three points on them puts us in a good spot.”
Given that they’d conceded a woeful 14 goals in their previous five away games, the Impact had focused on simply putting a solid defensive performance away from home. Biello was thus particularly pleased with Montreal’s clean sheet – though they needed goalkeeper Troy Perkins to make some critical interventions.
Biello also recognized that it wasn’t the Impact’s greatest day on offense. But he also felt that the team’s backline had managed their task well against a strong crossing team that they limited to 3.7 percent of successful crosses.
But Philadelphia also excelled on defense, making life difficult for the Impact and allowing them next to no touches of the ball in the penalty area.
“Credit to Philadelphia: they conceded five in their last game [in New England], and today played a great defensive game,” Biello said. “They didn’t allow us much space. Maybe we were a bit slower than them offensively. So credit to them. They remained compact throughout. We managed the game better in the second half and kept the ball more, but their block was tight and they waited for the counter.”
Olivier Tremblay covers the Montreal Impact for MLSsoccer.com.