The Montreal Impact needed a result by any means necessary to stay alive in the MLS is Back Tournament. So the beautiful game had to take a back seat in the second half against D.C. United Tuesday night.
The result was a 1-0 victory that showed Thierry Henry his team can grind out a win with their backs against the wall.
“Today, or this morning, they showed me that they can respond,” Henry said in his post-match press conference. “It wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t pretty in the second half, but we [hung] in there, stayed tight and we got the result we needed.”
As a result, the Impact finish third in Group and are currently in contention for one of the four third-place positions that advance to the Round of 16.
“Hopefully we can carry on in this tournament, but if we don’t, just look at the league,” Henry said. “It was very important for us to be back in the mix in the Eastern Conference.”
Montreal dropped its first two matches in Orlando, including a seven-goal thriller against Toronto FC. That was an occasion where the beautiful game was on display for Henry, but the result was missing.
“First and foremost, it was pretty against Toronto and we lost right? Very pretty against Toronto. We bossed them, but we lost,” Henry said. “Today, I thought we had control of the ball for the first half, second half it was a bit more difficult, they wanted to come back into the game. But we won, so that’s the most important thing in the game.”
With two teams desperate for a result, the Group C finale was at times a rough and tumble affair. That includes a first-half tackle by Felipe on Victor Wanyama that earned the D.C. United man a booking, though the former Tottenham midfielder thought the Brazilian deserved more.
“He was not near the ball and I think it was a dangerous tackle,” Wanyama said. “I think he’s lucky to stay on the pitch. I’m lucky that I’m OK."
“I made two kick saves tonight, but the most important was the team,” Diop said. “I’m sure Remy [Vercoutre, Impact goalkeeper coach] won’t be happy with the first one because I’m pretty sure he’d tell me to put my hands on it, but the most important is to make the save and the team scored a goal. We won because we scored a goal, not because I made saves. We don’t win if we don’t score.”