New York Red Bulls 1, Montreal Impact 2 | 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs Match Recap
The Montreal Impact are in uncharted territory. The New York Red Bulls are feeling that familiar playoff heartbreak.
In the second leg of the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals on Sunday at Red Bull Arena, the Impact surged to a 2-1 victory behind two goals from Ignacio Piatti, sending them to the Eastern Conference Championship for the first time in club history.
The Red Bulls, who last reached MLS Cup in 2008, will see another postseason run end early after finishing atop the Eastern Conference for the third time in the last four regular seasons.
Montreal, who led 1-0 coming in thanks to a Matteo Mancosu goal in the opening leg at Stade Saputo, scored the first goal of the game – and the first away goal of the series – on a Piatti blast in the 51st minute.
That crucial strike left the Red Bulls needing three goals to advance due to the away-goal tiebreaker, and they pulled one back on a deflected goal from Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 78th minute.
But the Impact sealed it in the 85th, when Piatti completed his brace on a pass from Didier Drogba – who was making his first appearance since September 28.
The Red Bulls, unbeaten in 16 games heading into the playoffs, had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 20th minute after Gonzalo Veron picked the pocket of Victor Cabrera and was taken down in the box for a penalty by Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush. But Bush got his revenge by saving Sacha Kljestan’s PK attempt and preventing RBNY from grabbing the momentum.
- 51' — MTL — Ignacio Piatti (Dominic Oduro)
- 77' — NY — Bradley Wright-Phillips (Daniel Royer, Damien Perrinelle)
- 85' — MTL — Ignacio Piatti (Didier Drogba, Dominic Oduro)
- Full box score
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- STARS MAKE AN IMPACT: Two of the three MVP finalists may have been on the other team but it was another one of the league’s premier players — Piatti — who made the biggest difference with his two goals spurring the upset. And the Argentine playmaker got some unlikely help from fellow Designated Player Drogba, who took on his super-sub role perfectly after a spat with head coach Mauro Biello and a back issue kept him off the field for several drama-filled weeks. Combine all that with the fact that Montreal’s third-leading scorer — Oduro — logged a pair of assists and it’s fair to say that Montreal’s top players came through when their team needed them most.
- HOUSE OF HORRORS NO MORE: Although the Red Bulls dropped the first leg on the road, they had reason to believe they could right the ship at home for one big reason: they were 7-0-0 all-time against the Impact at Red Bull Arena coming in. But Montreal picked a perfect time to earn the franchise’s first-ever win inside the New Jersey stadium, staying composed along the backline as the Red Bulls desperately pressed for a goal and overcoming their one big defensive gaffe with a spectacular Bush PK save to become the first Canadian MLS team to make it to a conference championship.
- BLOODY AND BRUISED: All of the Red Bulls will be left to ponder what went wrong during what will undoubtedly be a very long offseason … but perhaps no one more than Kljestan, one of RBNY’s two MVP finalists along with Wright-Phillips. After missing his PK — a goal that could have easily altered the trajectory of the series — he suffered a bloody nose and was forced to miss more than 10 minutes of action as trainers rushed to patch it up. Going down a man for that long certainly didn’t help the Red Bulls, who were already playing without injured defender Kemar Lawrence. And Kljestan may not have been at his best after returning either, ending his magnificent season in rough fashion.
MTL: Eastern Conference Championship first leg vs. Toronto FC (Tuesday 11/22, Time TBD)