The Montreal Impact already had an uphill battle to fight heading into the final half hour of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal against Toronto FC. But when Lucas Ontivero saw a red card in the 60th minute, their task of finding two goals to turn the series around became almost impossible.
The incident in question came after Ontivero skinned a couple TFC defenders, only to run straight into Ashtone Morgan just inside the 18-yard box. As Ontivero looked around for the penalty call, Will Johnson got in his face, and the Argentine returned fire by headbutting the Toronto man, earning a straight red card from referee Silivu Petrescu.
“I didn’t see the replay but you can’t expect win a game with 10 men and score two goals,” Impact head coach Mauro Biello told reporters in his postgame press conference. “I know we did the last time in Toronto, but you need to manage your emotions in those moments. I didn’t see it – they said it was a headbutt – but in the end it wasn’t the right thing and it hurt us.”
Montreal ended up with a player sent off in both games of the series, after Patrice Bernier saw red for a bad tackle in the first leg in Toronto. And while they were able to rally for two goals in the last seven minutes at BMO Field, there was no similar magic to be found in the friendly confines as they played out to a 0-0 draw without injured playmaker Ignacio Piatti.
“It’s hard to tell. It’s a heated game, emotions run high, whatever happened happened, and it’s our job to rally around it,” Impact forward Cameron Porter said of the call after the game. “We saw in the game last time in Toronto where we went down, we were down a man and we were able to push the to the end and get two goals, so we were hoping to do the same thing tonight.”
The red card was the first of Ontivero’s time with the Impact and only the second of his young career – the first coming back in his first season as a pro – but would his behavior be a talking point in the Montreal locker room after the game?
“When you make a play like that, you don’t want to talk to him afterwards,” said Impact goalkeeper Eric Kronberg. “So obviously we shook his hand, he knows his mistake. It was unfortunate but you’ve got to forget and move on.”