CHESTER, Pa. – On a rainy, miserable Saturday afternoon for soccer at PPL Park, Marco Di Vaio’s first goal of the 2014 season, and the Montreal Impact’s first shot on target of the match, turned a strong performance and would-be victory by the Philadelphia Union into a 1-1 draw.
Di Vaio, a 20-goalscorer in 2013, returned to Montreal’s lineup after serving a three-game suspension and generated nine shots in his 90 minutes of action.
For the Union, Vincent Nogueira’s 35th-minute goal – his first in MLS – appeared as though it would hold up until Di Vaio’s 80th-minute stunner. The draw snapped Montreal’s (0-3-1, 1 point) three-match losing streak to begin the year while Philadelphia (1-1-2, 5 points) are now winless in their previous two outings.
Montreal’s goal developed as a result of a remarkable long ball played to Di Vaio by Justin Mapp – arguably the two best players on the pitch for Impact all afternoon. After settling the ball on the near wing, Di Vaio was given time and space before beating Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath to his left.
Four minutes prior to Di Vaio’s first of the year, Lancaster, Pa., native Andrew Wenger was issued a red card by referee Edvin Jurisevic for sliding in dangerously on Nogueira, making Montreal’s goal all the more stunning.
Philadelphia’s lone score came when Union captain Brian Carroll led forward Jack McInerney into the final third. From there, McInerney beat Matteo Ferrari and found Nogueira streaking past his man. The 26-year-old Frenchman then blasted a shot by a helpless Troy Perkins to open his MLS account in style in front of 15,691 water-logged supporters.
It was the third such instance in the first half when John Hackworth’s side broke down Montreal’s left-wing defense. On the first, Nogueira dribbled unimpeded from midfield to the box before missing wide to the far side with McInerney trailing the play.
In the 26th minute, McInerney beat Hassoun Camara and broke toward goal, but Camara placed his right arm on McInerney’s shoulder and pulled him down from behind. Jurisevic showed Camara a yellow on a play that arguably could have prematurely ended the Montreal back’s afternoon.
After a bit of pressure in the opening 10 minutes, Montreal – playing without captain Patrice Bernier – appeared largely out of sorts on defense for the remainder of the first half. The Impact’s inability to sustain pressure carried over to the second half, while Perkins made a sensational save on Maurice Edu in the 60th minute to keep his team within one.
Rain began falling in the Philadelphia area around 10 am and continued throughout the match. Save for a spot in front of the home bench, however, the pitch held up well.
Both team will next be in action on Apr. 5 when Philadelphia visits Chicago and Montreal welcome New York to Stade Olympique.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Aaron Wheeler||The converted center back put in a shift full of massive blocks and intelligent defending that shut down Impact attacks.|
|2||Vincent Nogueira||Was all over the field in the first half, attacking and defending, and the goal was his just reward for work well done.|
|3||Marco Di Vaio||Without the goal, this goes to Justin Mapp. But that matters, and the Italian looked like he eventually shook off the rust.|