A stone’s throw away from the White House, the Montreal Impact had an evening which we can qualify as presidential during the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round game against D.C. United: first win on the RFK Stadium field for the club, first team to win an away knockout game since 2012, first Canadian team to win a playoff game on the road, second team to win two knockout games in a row and a knockout game goal scoring record. This masterful performance by the Bleu-blanc-noir squad sets the table for a promising semifinal against New York Red Bulls.
“If we remove the last two goals, from A to Z we applied exactly what Mauro and the staff asked us to do in training: stay compact, structured, work as a group,” explains captain Patrice Bernier. “We knew there would be space to give balls to Nacho [Piatti], Dominic [Oduro] and Matteo [Mancosu] to find opportunities and that’s what happened. During 85 minutes, the game was almost perfect for us. In the end, we won and our spirit is great. We have to keep that spirit in Montreal to get a good result against the Red Bulls and get an advantage before going to New York.”
What a showing the back four and the midfield in front of them offered in Washington, limiting the locals to four shots on target, the first one coming as late as the 76th minute. But foremost, the Impact never seemed in trouble all the way until stoppage time.
“We were able to dictate the tempo, we were able to keep the ball when we needed to,” continues Bernier. “We felt we played with more confidence during the difficult moments. That’s what Mauro asked: play with confidence and keep the ball when needed. We saw it, during 85 or 90 minutes we played a great game. We have to keep this mindset; if we play like this, we will be very hard to beat.”
A win-win partnership
Thanks to Laurent Ciman’s early goal off a corner, the Impact’s offensive trio was able to take advantage of a lot of space created in behind a low D.C. defensive block that had no choice but to push forward to level the score. In this context, Nacho Piatti’s technical quality and vision combined with Matteo Mancosu’s vivacity and speed dented United’s hopes.
“With Matteo, we find each other well,” says the Argentine maestro. “I’m happy he scored twice today. I think that on my goal, Matteo wanted to give me the ball because I gave him the assist on his first goal. I won’t complain!”
Impact supporters will not complain either about this devastating chemistry a few hours before the New York Red Bulls arrive at Stade Saputo (tickets available here).