Montreal Impact 1, New York Red Bulls 0 | 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs Match Recap
Matteo Mancosu’s stunning half-volley proved the difference as the Montreal Impact claimed a 1-0 home win over the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
The goal arrived just past the hour mark of a tightly-contested affair, as Marco Donadel sprung his fellow Italian with a ball over the top that Mancosu let bounce before he lashed an unstoppable shot past Luis Robles.
It was the best chance for either team in a tightly-contested affair that saw the Impact play a lockdown game on the defensive side of the ball, slowing down the high-powered Red Bulls' attack. New York's best look only came in second-half stoppage time when Evan Bush parried a close-range Omer Damari shot right into the path of Bradley Wright-Phillips, who sliced his shot wide.
Damari would see a red card just seconds later for a hard, late challenge on Calum Mallace in front of the Montreal bench, meaning the Red Bulls will not be able to count on him for the return leg at Red Bull Arena next Sunday, where they must figure out a way through a watertight Impact backline if they are to keep their playoff hopes alive.
- STICK TO THE PLAN: Montreal’s strategy was clear from the outset: stick to their defend-and-counter ethos while limiting the influence of the Red Bulls’ two MVP candidates – Golden Boot winner Wright-Phillips and midfield maestro Sacha Kljestan. Safe to say it worked to perfection. The Impact’s central defensive duo of Laurent Ciman (11 clearances, 4 interceptions, 3 tackles) and Victor Cabrera (8 tackles, 8 clerances, 5 tackles) kept BWP off his game throughout the 90 minutes, while the Impact limited Kljestan to the point where the 20-assist man did not create a single chance for the Red Bulls. It will likely take an equally impressive performance for the Impact to go through in a week’s time, but they’ll be taking plenty of confidence from this one.
- IT’S GOTTA END SOMETIME: The Red Bulls had not lost a game since July 3, a streak stretching 20 games, until the Impact handed them the L on Sunday. All streaks have to end sometime, but this was perhaps the most inopportune time for New York. It was also the first time the Red Bulls have been held scoreless in MLS play since July 10. The question now is, have the Impact figured out the Red Bulls when it matters most, or was this result just a blip on the radar for one of the league’s best attacking teams?
- WHAT’S NEXT?: The Impact currently hold a 1-0 lead at the halfway point of this aggregate goals series, giving them a slim, but certainly not unassailable, advantage in the fight to reach the Conference Championship. A tie or Impact win would see them advance, whereas a Red Bulls win by two goals or more would put them in the next round. A 1-0 Red Bulls win would see the series go to extra time, and then a penalty shootout if necessary, whereas a one-goal Red Bulls win where Montreal score would see the Impact through on the away goals rule. For what it’s worth, the Red Bulls have averaged 2.1 goals for and 0.8 goals against in their last 10 home games, though conceded two in each of their final home contests of the regular season.
- New York Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact (Sunday, November 6; Time and Broadcast TBD)