Drilling down on: at Montreal 3, New York 1

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MONTREAL – Potentially the biggest win of Montreal’s short MLS history overshadows the debut of Alessandro Nesta and the first goal from Marco Di Vaio, the Impact posting a 3-1 win over Eastern Conference-leading New York.

Man of the Match: On a night where a new Impact player was supposed to take center stage, it was the star that’s been here all season that sent a reminder to the Stade Saputo faithful. Not that Impact fans had forgotten about Felipe, but with all the noise Montreal’s made this summer, the Brazilian midfielder’s work has been overshadowed. On Saturday, there was no overshadowing his two assists, the numerous other passes he played to maintain pressure on New York, as well as the pressing he did on Red Bulls’ back line. Other payers may steal tonight’s headlines, but Felipe was Jesse Marsch’s stand out performer.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Reasons those headlines might be stolen: Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta:
    • Di Vaio look a Felipe pass in the 48th minute and, from the left of goal, beat Bill Gaudette for his first Major League Soccer goal, 549 minutes into his MLS career.
    • Nesta had a great night in his debut. For about 1/3 of the match he seemed unsure of himself, often looking around to find himself slightly off the position he wanted. By the end of the first half, he was consistently making assertive plays, at times jumping into midfield to do so. He was crucial in maintaining Montreal’s pressure on New York. (More on Nesta’s debut to come.)
  • Another reason Montreal was able to maintain that subtle pressure: New York’s two-man midfield had a poor night. Anytime Montreal brought Collen Warner up to pressure Dax McCarty, New York’s sitter would play a negative ball or lose possession. Aside from one moment, Joel Lindpere was ineffectual-to-bad (as he was in the 75th minute, when his turnover led to Montreal’s last goal).
  • It was a welcome advantage for a Montreal team that had no points in two games this year against New York, losing by an aggregate 7-2. For head coach Jesse Marsch, the key was not only getting his best players on the field but also “tightening the lines,” both vertically and horizontally, with the idea of having somebody in place to challenge Thierry Henry when New York’s creator received the ball. It worked, with New York’s only goal coming after a string of errors.
  • It took Montreal a while to assert themselves, looking the better team early but going through a stretch in the middle of the first half where New York controlled play, backing Montreal into their own end such that the Red Bulls were able to camp in their attacking half.
  • Near the end of the first 45, the tables turned. Aggressive play from Nesta and nice passing from Felipe had Montreal dictating the game when halftime blew.
  • It took only three minutes for the Impact to break through in the second, with a New York defense that had walked such a fine first half line collapsing. A ball played out of the back from Nesta eventually found its way to Felipe, who squared for Justin Mapp ahead of a pass to Di Vaio. A great finish from 12 yards out to the left of goal, burying the ball into the side netting, opened the former Bologna star’s account.
  • Minutes later, Felipe chipped a ball over a high line for Davy Arnaud, the captain easily beating Bill Gaudette for the game winner in the 50th minute. For whatever reason, New York seemed slow to come into the game out of halftime. The five minute stretch at the beginning of the second cost them the game.
  • Seven minutes later, Henry scored after Lindpere beat Warner to the byline, crossing to New York’s all-star, who had an easy finish after Donovan Ricketts was too hasty off his line. Sanna Nyassi, however, restored Montreal’s lead in the 74th, providing the final margin of victory.
  • Go up-and-down Montreal’s team, and you won’t find any bad performances. It was a true team effort, where even the three goals were a result of key contributions from multiple players.
  • The only concern for Jesse Marsch was set pieces. New York almost struck first when Kenny Cooper headed a Henry restart onto Ricketts, the rebound put over by Markus Holgersson. Another restart produced a scramble that featured a diving save from Ricketts on a Cooper flick. Despite the debut of Nesta and return of Nelson Rivas, the Impact are still very vulnerable on dead balls.
  • For New York, their vulnerability was the right side of their defense, through which two of the goals came. All night, Jan Gunnar Solli and Holgersson seemed ready to crack, with¬†Wilman Conde’s work from left-center half saving them on a couple of occasions in the first. When Conde didn’t put together a second super half, New York fell to earth.
  • With the win, Montreal pulls within four points of Chicago for fifth, though the Fire have four matches in hand. The real shakeup comes at the top of the East, where New York’s loss likely leaves three teams separated by one point (Sporting KC is trailing Columbus as I type).