MONTREAL – So, who’s actually in the driver’s seat in Group 3 of the CONCACAF Champions League?
After the Montreal Impact beat New York Red Bulls 1-0 on Wednesday at Stade Saputo, New York head coach Mike Petke argued that his team was. Opposite number Frank Klopas was quick to point out, though, that Montreal picked up their third win in three games.
What's unquestionable is that New York have two games to wipe out a six-point deficit. Montreal have some margin for error. New York have none.
Should the Red Bulls win at FAS next Wednesday – and with Petke hinting that he may mix and match instead of fielding mostly reserves, it’s quite possible – Montreal could still lose at New York on October 22 yet make it through to the CCL Championship stage on goal difference or away goals.
Not that the Impact are aiming for that, of course.
“Looking at it, it’s in our hands,” Klopas told reporters. “It’s the same thing: [Petke] looks at it that they win two games, and I look at it that we’ve got to go there and win the game too. And I have confidence that we can do that.”
Montreal did win this one, but barely. Despite heavy squad rotation, the Red Bulls looked more than capable of troubling Montreal. They nearly found an equalizer a number of times.
They also thwarted Montreal’s attempts to add to their lead, and when they didn’t, Andres Romero and Anthony Jackson-Hamel missed glorious late chances. Should Group 3 go to tiebreakers, this could hurt Montreal, who played with a man advantage after Connor Lade’s second yellow card in the 76th minute.
“I think we settled for 1-0 a bit too much,” midfielder Jeremy Gagnon-Laparé said. “We were trying to manage the game as such, to keep it that way. Maybe we should have done more to get a second goal, especially with the red card. But we created chances. We weren’t far from the second goal.”
There were no doubts, however, as to the mood in the Impact camp: optimism is in the air.
“I think it’s a good result for us, winning the game,” midfielder Calum Mallace said. “Obviously, it was such an important game, it would have been nice to get a couple more goals. … But it’s a victory and we’ll take the positives from that.”