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Impact travel saga highlights how far MLS still has to go

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Major League Soccer has made many impressive strides in its 24 seasons of existence. But if the Montreal Impact’s travel situation proved anything, it’s that the league still has a long way to go to be compared alongside the big four American leagues – The NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.

[READ: Top Premier League Storylines for Week 36]

The Montreal Impact spent around 13 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday in transit ahead of its match on Wednesday evening against the New England Revolution. Remarkably, the Impact beat the Revolution, 3-0 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., but it should never have taken that long to get the Impact down – or any professional team – from Montreal to the Boston suburbs.

According to an article in the Athletic, which details the Impact’s administrative travel mishaps, the team ended up spending seven hours in the Montreal International Airport waiting for a delayed flight to Logan International Airport in Boston, only for the flight to be cancelled at 10 p.m.

The players were then scheduled to arrive back at the airport the next morning to take a charter flight, but then that flight was delayed a further five hours, due to a flight schedule change – Logan Airport wouldn’t accept the charter – and having to go through customs and immigration in Montreal before re-boarding the flight and waiting their turn.

Shockingly, the Impact arrived at their hotel with just three and a half hours before kickoff. Evan Bush, the Impact’s starting goalkeeper and representative for the MLS Players Association, believed that the game should have been called off. Per the Athletic, the Impact asked the league to postpone the game, but the league apparently didn’t want to inconvenience fans and TV broadcasters, who are ultimately the ones that pay to watch the players. So it was a financial decision. The Impact had all their limbs, hence, they were ready to go.

MLS teams are only allowed four charter flights per season (Montreal’s charter planes to and from Boston reportedly won’t count against their four for this season). The league views charter flights – a view that now seems archaic considering how many incredibly rich owners there are in the league – as a type of competitive advantage, which could sway one international or domestic signing from joining one team over another.

Thus, in 2019, everyone from Evan Bush to Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are taking commercial flights and sitting in economy class, sometimes having to split up into multiple groups on different flights to get everyone to the final destination. Most teams save their charter flights for long-haul journeys, like Montreal to Los Angeles or Vancouver to Atlanta, leaving medium and short-haul flights to the mercy of the weather or flight delays at some of North America’s busiest airports.

In 2019, it’s a shame that MLS is still operating this way, as though team owners can’t afford to fly their players around in the type of accommodations that would – over the course of a long, difficult season filled with a lot of travel – help keep players fresher by the end of the year.

Per the MLSPA, there is no binding language between the league and players in the current collective bargaining agreement that mandates a specific amount of charter flights, and the MLSPA wouldn’t stand in MLS’ way if they decided to allow teams free reign on using this type of transportation to and from games.

While events like this can happen in the other sports, having players take charter flights significantly helps both the team administration and helps avoid many of the pitfalls of flying basic economy with the rest of the country.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Columbus Crew SC 3-1 AET (4-3 agg.) Montreal Impact

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The game in 100 words (or less): It took 180 minutes, then it took 30 minutes more, but Columbus Crew SC are through to the Eastern Conference finals where they’ll face the top-seeded New York Red Bulls in two weeks’ time, after knocking off the Montreal Impact, 3-1 (4-3 on aggregate) Sunday night at MAPFRE Stadium. The two-legged triumph erases a nightmare of a playoff appearance in the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs, in which Gregg Berhalter’s side was hammered by the New England Revolution, 7-3 over two legs. Kei Kamara scored twice on the night — a pair of headers, of course — to go along with Ethan Finlay’s late equalizer in regular time. Dilly Duka, playing against his first professional team, scored a goal that for a period of time had the Impact in front with as few as 12 minutes of regular time to be played.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the weekend’s playoff action ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Kamara heads home from close range — Get the ball wide, get the ball into the box and watch Kamara head it home — that’s been roughly 86.7 percent of Crew SC’s gameplan in 2015, and to devastating effect. Federico Higuain sprang Waylon Francis down the left wing and the Sierra Leonean striker did the rest.

40′ — Duka puts Montreal back up on aggregate — Chaos inside the penalty area, a failure to clearance and a badly missed offside infraction — that’s all it took for Montreal to equalize on the day and reclaim the aggregate lead through Dilly Duka’s close-range finish.

68′ — Bush saves Kamara’s PK to preserve lead — It would have re-tied the series on aggregate, but it was a very soft penalty decision in the first place. Kamara hadn’t taken a penalty all season long, but he talked Higuain out of the responsibility nonetheless. It was a poor penalty, saved rather easily by Bush as long as he goes the right way.

78′ — Finlay puts home the rebound, 3-3 on aggregate — Duka was offside on his goal in the first half, and Jack McInerney was offside during the build-up to Finlay’s goal late in the second half, so we’re even now. To extra time we go.

111′ — Kamara heads home again late in extra time — Kei Kamara, expert header of soccer balls. The man is brilliant when it comes to finish chances with his head, as evidenced in his late winner to send Cedrick Mabwati’s header home from an incredibly tough angle, from a fair distance out.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Kei Kamara

Goalscorers: Kamara (4′, 111′), Duka (40′), Finlay (78′)

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

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The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 2-0 DC United

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The game in 100 words (or less): The ground can’t be much further down for D.C. United, who are in total free-fall mode, can it? Ben Olsen’s side has now lost five of their last six (one draw) since winning the strangest game in MLS history back on Aug. 8. Back at the sight of their last victory, Stade Saputo in Montreal, United dropped three more points on Saturday, this time to the suddenly streaking Montreal Impact, by a final score of 2-0. Didier Drogba scored twice more for the Impact (WATCH HERE), bringing his tally to seven goals in six MLS appearances. Saturday’s win gives the Impact nine points from their last three games and extends their current unbeaten run to six games (four wins, two draws). Now just one points behind Toronto FC for fifth in the Eastern Conference, with a game in hand on every side currently within reach, L’Impact could very well host their knockout round playoff game next month.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of Week 30 | Week 29 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

4′ — Drogba scores a stunning free kick — 30 yards, over the wall, past Bill Hamid, into the top corner… not a problem for Drogba. Not a problem at all. WATCH HERE

11′ — Drogba breaks ankles, makes it 2-0 — Turnover in midfield, Drogba picks the ball up near midfield, dribbles 50 yards, breaks Steve Birnbaum’s ankles and lifts the ball over Hamid… again, not a problem for Drogba. Not a problem at all. WATCH HERE

12′ — Bush’s double save thwarts Espindola, Rolfe — Much like that unlikely victory over the Impact last month, United had one real scoring chance on Saturday. Evan Bush made a strong double save to keep out Fabian Espindola’s powerful blast from wide left and smother Chris Rolfe’s follow-up right in front of goal.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Didier Drogba

Goalscorers: Drogba (4′, 11′)

MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 12

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Week 12 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is in the books, and just as in Week 11, we were once again reminded that nobody knows anything about MLS. The only thing we know about MLS is that we know nothing about MLS.

That upside-down nature of results is reflected in Andy Edwards’ Week 12 MLS Team of the Week.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Week 10 MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Three Toronto FC players? Two from the Montreal Impact? One from each of the Philadelphia Union and Colorado Rapids? What is this world?

TFC and the Impact both snatched big home victories over the weekend, thanks to strong performances from the midfield (TFC) and rearguard (Montreal). The Rapids and Union also won in Week 12. In summation, four of the league’s bottom-five teams won over the weekend.

Thoughts? Questions? Agreements? Disagreements? (Of course not.) Leave them in the comments section, as always. I’m not afraid to defend my picks.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS Team of the Week archive ]

MLS Team of the Week — Week 12

Goalkeeper: Evan Bush (Montreal Impact)

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Defenders: Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabinho (Philadelphia Union), Lauren Ciman (Montreal Impact)

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Midfielders: Benoit Cheyrou (Toronto FC), Lucas Pittinari (Colorado Rapids), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Luke Mulholland (Real Salt Lake)

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Forwards: Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC)

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