CCL: Montreal Impact flip the script, hold their nerve late in opening win

MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact have conceded seven goals after the 75th minute this season in Major League Soccer, almost always losing points as a result.

It looked like the club was in for more of the same in their CONCACAF Champions League opener on Tuesday night at Stade Saputo, but the Impact held their nerve and kept their 1-0 result against El Salvador’s FAS in the Group 3 opener.

And even more impressively, they did it without defender Hassoun Camara - who was sent off in the 72nd minute for a for a dangerous sliding tackle on Raul Renderos - and head coach Frank Klopas on the sideline.

“We always felt like getting the second one, and even a third one, just to relax, especially the way, late in games, we’ve given up leads,” said Klopas, who was sent off in the 82nd minute for arguing calls. “But we talked about the focus and concentration after the 75th minute, and it’s always good to be able to score. But at least, we were disciplined and focused. We battled with 10 guys. We stayed organized.”

The win was Montreal’s first across all competitions since June 29, and it came in part because the Impact were able to create chances early. Only fantastic stops by Luis Contreras on Marco Di Vaio and Andres Romero prevented the Impact from putting the game to bed early.

“Today, there’s a lot of satisfaction, more than relief,” Camara told reporters postgame. “We saw that we could do well despite the adversity and so on. Grabbing the three points tonight is great.”

But it still might not be enough. Last season, Montreal started the tournament’s group stage with another 1-0 win, against the San Jose Earthquakes. The Quakes eventually went through to the quarters on goal differential while every team in Group 5 won both their home games.

To most Montreal supporters, it was another late loss that did them in, this time a 1-0 loss against Guatemalan side Heredia on the road. This time the Impact will look to flip the script when the head to El Salvador for their rematch with FAS on Aug. 20.

“Last year we went down [to Guatemala] and didn’t get the result we needed,” team captain Patrice Bernier said. “We have to go there, get a result and then face New York the last two games with the advantage of having grabbed points early. Last time around, we won one, lost one and essentially put the cards in the other teams’ hands. We just have to go to Salvador and grab a result.”