A wild finish in Nizhny Novgorod saw Costa Rica come back to draw Switzerland 2-2, though the Swiss are the second-place side to move into the Round of 16.
Switzerland led through ex-Montreal Impact midfielder Blerim Dzemaili and later Josip Drmic, but Vancouver Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston and ex-Fulham man Bryan Ruiz found equalizers.
Ruiz’s goal was especially wild, his PK bounding off the bar but hitting the Swiss goalkeeper for what will absurdly be recorded as an own goal.
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Dzemaili’s goal came when Breel Embolo leapt to knock down Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cross back toward the top of the six.
The knockdown could hardly have found Dzemaili in a more favorable position.
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It was Whitecaps stalwart Waston who restored the deadlock off a 56th minute set piece.
MLS defenses have seen this before…
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Switzerland went ahead through Drmic, and then almost gave the lead right back. A penalty was awarded to Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz, but the ex-Fulham man was found offside via VAR.
No matter, Costa Rica got its penalty late, and converted it in… unusual fashion. Joel Campbell’s effort won the PK, and Ruiz’s shot hit the bar, then Swiss goalkeeper Jan Sommer’s head to make it 2-2.
The loss of Swiss power Blerim Dzemaili is a big one for the Montreal Impact, but another World Cup player may be taking his place in Quebec.
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Tutto Bologna reports that Algerian playmaker Saphir Taider, 25, is set to sign with the Impact on a contract through 2020.
On loan to Montreal last season, Dzemaili went back to Bologna. Taider is coming back the other way and will reportedly be a Designated Player.
Taider isn’t as consistent a player as Dzemaili, but presents a skill set that should be a massive problem for MLS midfields.
He has 42 caps with five goals for Algeria, and was once property of Juventus. He spent parts of four seasons at Inter Milan, with loan stints back to Bologna, at Sassuolo, and a unremarkable time at Southampton.
Mauro Biello is out.
The Montreal Impact have parted ways with its entire coaching staff following a terrible end to a disappointing 2017 season which failed to see them build on an Eastern Conference Finals run.
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Montreal lost nine of its last 10 despite beating Toronto FC in Toronto, finishing with 39 points. That’s 11 points out of a playoff spot, which looked all but certain before their miserable finish to the campaign.
This despite an MVP caliber season from recently-extended Ignacio Piatti, who scored 17 goals with five assists. That the Impact failed was a bit baffling, especially following the midseason addition of Blerim Dzemaili, who chipped in seven goals and 10 assists in 22 matches.
There are some interesting pieces for the next boss, should 24-year-old Anthony Jackson-Hamel and 18-year-old Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla stick around.
The 45-year-old Biello finishes his first managerial gig following a playing career with the Impact (pre-MLS), Rochester Rhinos, and several indoor sides including the Impact, Toronto Thunderhawks, and Buffalo Blizzard.
The game in 100 words (or less): Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.
Three moments that mattered
6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.
36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.
38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.
Man of the Match: Piatti.
Four matches in 100 words (or less, each)
NYCFC 2-2 Toronto FC: Toronto FC entered Wednesday’s match against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium without three players on USMNT duty in the forms of left back Justin Morrow, center midfielder Michael Bradley, and forward Jozy Altidore. The youthful Reds were unbowed, going up 1-0 and denied a 2-1 lead by an offside call that sent manager Greg Vanney to the stands. Trailing late, Victor Vazquez scored a penalty kick for his fourth goal of the season to seize a point for the visitors. An advertisement for its academy, Toronto kept its five-point advantage on third-place NYCFC.
New York Red Bulls 5-1 San Jose Earthquakes: Daniel Royer’s sixth and seventh goals of the season helped RBNY’s much-maligned attack to a breakout performance. Sacha Kljestan, Sean Davis, and Felipe Martins also scored for the Red Bulls, who have eight goals in their last two matches. Kljestan added two assists. The match ruined a goal-scoring debut for new Quakes DP Valeri Qazaishvili.
Montreal Impact 2-1 Philadelphia Union: The Impact’s addition of Blerim Dzemaili has been just what the doctor ordered, and the Swiss midfielder scored a pretty goal in Montreal’s win. Dzemaili has four goals and five assists in eight league games since arriving from Atalanta, and the Impact’s playoff hopes aren’t dead yet. Montreal leapfrogged Philly with the win, getting a goal and an assist from UC Riverside product Michael Salazar. Fafa Picault had the Union marker.
Minnesota United 0-0 Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo’s attack was depleted by Gold Cup call-ups, but Loons backstop Bobby Shuttleworth was still tested four times in the scoreless draw. Tyler Deric made two stops for Houston.