MONTREAL – In its last game of the 2019 MLS regular season, the Montreal Impact shut out the New York Red Bulls 3-0, Sunday afternoon at Stade Saputo. The Impact struck twice in the first half, first in the 23rd minute with Bojan’s third goal of the season, followed by Maxi Urruti’s fourth of the season in the 38th minute. Finally, Orji Okwonkwo’s goal in the 62nd minute secured all three points for the Montreal club.
“It was important for us to win,” said Impact head coach Wilmer Cabrera. “The way we played the last five games is the way I wanted us to play, but it took a bit of time, which is normal. We were growing as a team, we were more connected, and we understood what we wanted to do. So, it was important for us to come and win against a very good rival that’s going to make the playoffs, and show our fans that we can play this way.”
Montreal strikes early
The visitors got the game’s first chance in the fifth minute. A corner swung into the Montreal box was met by centre-back Aaron Long, and the ball deflected to Daniel Royer, but his shot from in close hit the crossbar before going out.
In the 10th minute, the hosts thought they grabbed the lead, after a cross swung in towards Nacho Piatti was redirected by the Argentine towards Maxi Urruti, but Orji Okwonkwo was called offside after Urruti found him with a pass, despite Saphir Taïder slotting it in before the whistle.
Montreal finally broke through in the 23rd minute, Bojan finding the back of the net in his second straight game. Midfielder Samuel Piette, in his own defensive third, managed to find Okwonkwo near midfield. The Nigerian was able to muscle his way past centre-back Tim Parker and sprint towards goal, eventually passing towards the middle for Bojan, and the Spaniard had no trouble beating Luis Robles on his first touch.
Montreal kept pressing and doubled its lead in the 38th minute. Jukka Raitala, on the left side, passed to Nacho Piatti and continued his run, allowing Piatti to give it back to the Finn in behind the defense. Raitala was pushed from behind and dispossessed, but Maxi Urruti was first on the ball, and he was able to instinctively find the back of the net from a difficult angle.
“We wanted to give our supporters a win to finish the season strong,” said midfielder Samuel Piette. “We know it wasn’t the easiest of seasons, but we want to offer this win to our supporters, and today we did it in the best way we could. We showed up and we played hard for 90 minutes, and it feels good to finish the season this way.”
Okwonkwo fires in eighth of the season
In the 59th minute, a corner swung in by Taïder was cleared by the visitors, but only to Piatti, waiting atop the box. The Impact’s Designated Player controlled it and took a shot on the half-volley, but he missed just wide of the right post.
Minutes later, the visitors answered, when midfielder Josh Sims found Brian White’s run in behind the defense, but goalkeeper Clément Diop was able to run out and clear the danger. The French goalkeeper was making a second consecutive start in MLS.
The hosts struck again, this time in the 62nd minute, when centre-back Rudy Camacho was able to find Urruti up the field. The Impact striker shuffled it towards Taïder on his right, and the Algerian was able to cross it perfectly for Okwonkwo, the Nigerian deflecting it with his chest to give his team a commanding lead.
It’s Okwonkwo’s eighth goal of the season, the most for a player in their first year with the club since Didier Drogba scored 11 in 2015.
“We enjoyed ourselves today, which I think was obvious for anyone watching,” said midfielder Saphir Taïder. “We wanted to finish the season on a positive note, with a nice victory. It was one of our best games of the second half of the season. We scored three goals and I think we could’ve added a few more.”
The Montreal Impact’s next game will be in the Concacaf Champions League the round of 16, in February. The identity of the opponent will be announced in December. 2020 season ticket members will receive their ticket free of charge for the Impact’s first home game in the Champions League; 2020 memberships are available for as low as $33 per game.
MTL – GK-Clément Diop; D-Bacary Sagna, Rudy Camacho (Jorge Corrales 89’), Victor Cabrera, Jukka Raitala; M-Samuel Piette, Saphir Taïder, Ignacio Piatti (Shamit Shome 85’), Orji Okwonkwo (Lassi Lappalainen 80’); F-Maximiliano Urruti, Bojan
Unused subs – Evan Bush, Amar Sejdic, Ballou Tabla, Clément Bayiha
NYRB – GK-Luis Robles; D-Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence, Kyle Duncan (Michael Murillo 26’), Tim Parker; M-Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Cristian Cásseres Jr, Daniel Royer (Omir Fernandez 72’), Josh Sims, Sean Davis; F-Brian White (Bradley Wright-Phillips 62’)
Unused subs – Ryan Meara, Sean Nealis, Alex Muyl
MTL – Bojan (Okwonkwo) 23’
MTL – Urruti 37’
MTL – Okwonkwo (Taïder) 62’
MTL – Okwonkwo 64’