The game in 100 words (or less): The Montreal Impact, the hottest team in Major League Soccer to finish the 2015 regular season, took a large step toward advancing to the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday, as they held serve at home and outlasted Columbus Crew SC in the first leg of the conference semifinals. Federico Higuain put the visitors ahead just past the half-hour mark, a vital away goal or so it seemed, but L’Impact hit back with goals scored by Patrice Bernier and Johan Venegas to take a slim lead into next Sunday’s second leg at MAPFRE Stadium. Didier Drogba appeared to have scored the game’s opening goal in the 15th minute, but his tally was ultimately ruled out on a rather suspect handball decision by referee Chris Penso and crew.
Three moments that mattered
33′ — Higuain finishes to grab an away goal — This probably isn’t where Drogba intended for his headed clearance to go, straight to the right foot of Higuain, a clinical finisher on most occasions. Alas, that’s exactly where it went and the Argentine did not disappoint with his strike.
37′ — Bernier heads home for the equalizer — Crew SC struggled with defending set pieces. No, like, they really struggle with it. It was their biggest issue all year long, and it’s apparently not been solved ahead of the playoffs. Bernier got lost among the tall trees’ zonal marking and headed past Steve Clark for the quick equalizer.
77′ — Venegas finishes on the breakaway for 2-1 — Venegas had Drogba to his right, a simple square pass away from walking the ball into Crew SC’s net, but the Costa Rican opted to go it alone and finish far post past Clark to send the Stade Saputo crowd into raptures once again. For his own well being, it’s a good thing he scored.
Man of the match: Patrice Bernier
Goalscorers: Higuain (33′), Bernier (37′), Venegas (77′)