Montreal Impact and New York Red Bulls were tied at 1-1 nine minutes into the second half when debutant Heath Pearce took a heavy touch midway inside New York’s half. The Impact’s Miguel Montano pounced, hurdling the defender’s lunge to create a clear path into the Red Bulls’ penalty area.
Montano closed in on goal from the right of the box. He planted his left foot and drew back his right, preparing to drive the ball into rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara’s far corner. A fiery frame emerged, hurtling into a last-ditch challenge that forced Montano to skew his shot wide of his target. Dax McCarty, sitting in the holding role in front of New York’s defense, had rescued his side once again.
McCarty has produced his best displays for the Red Bulls from this position over the past month. He was shunted back to a more attacking role in New York’s 3-2 win at Philadelphia Union on May 13 to accommodate Rafael Marquez. The Mexican’s absence – attributed to an Achilles injury on this occasion – allowed McCarty to resume his commanding form and inspire the Red Bulls to their fifth straight win.
Impact Head Coach Jesse Marsch kept his favored 4-4-2 formation, making three personnel changes from Montreal’s 1-1 tie with Los Angeles Galaxy on May 12. Tyson Wahl, Sanna Nyassi and Montano came into the starting 11 in place of Hassoun Camara, Justin Mapp and Lamar Neagle.
Mehdi Ballouchy has been filling a supporting role for the Red Bulls alongside Kenny Cooper in Thierry Henry’s absence. The Moroccan’s visa issues meant he was again unable to travel to Canada. Head Coach Hans Backe opted for another midfielder instead, switching to a 4-1-4-1 formation with Victor Palsson joining Joel Lindpere in the center.
Tyler Ruthven dropped to the substitutes’ bench to make way for Pearce, and Connor Lade started on the left of midfield.
New York were content to defend in their own half, allowing Montreal’s back line to retain possession with only Cooper giving chase. The defensive pressure began with the Red Bulls’ full-backs whenever Davy Arnaud or Nyassi received the ball 10 yards inside New York’s half. That gave the hosts time to lump long balls into the penalty area for 6’3” Italian striker Bernardo Corradi to contest, while Montano and Montreal’s wide players made runs off the target man.
Pearce and Roy Miller struggled to cope with Corradi’s presence on 14 minutes. Nyassi fired in a volley that Meara tipped behind for a corner.
Montreal’s aerial advantage at set pieces looked significant. Italian defender Matteo Ferrari bullied Markus Holgersson around the 6-yard box, while McCarty and Lade both gave up five inches against Tyson Wahl and Arnaud. The Red Bulls escaped on 15 minutes when Nelson Rivas headed Felipe’s delivery wide of Meara’s far post.
The Red Bulls proved capable of carving out chances with their limited possession. Miller’s overlapping run on 10 minutes led to him teeing up Lindpere in the inside-left channel he’d scored from against the Galaxy and Philadelphia in recent weeks. Collen Warner tracked the Estonian’s run all the way back to his penalty area before brushing him aside.
Dane Richards and McCarty both had shots blocked as the visitors forced a couple of corners.
Defenses Breached By Poor Refereeing
FIFA’s “Laws of the Game” state that handling the ball involves “a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball” with his hand or arm. Further, the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement.
Referee Ismail Elfath, taking charge of his first Major League Soccer game, adopted a draconian stance toward handling offences by awarding first-half penalties to both sides.
Corradi converted first for Montreal on 22 minutes after the Italian nodded Wahl’s long ball against Holgersson’s arm. The decision was particularly harsh given that both players were competing for the cross and the Swedish defender was facing away from the ball when it struck him.
Cooper equalized on 37 minutes after Richards’ right-wing cross was blocked by Wahl’s sliding challenge. The ball struck the defender’s arm, but there was no movement of hand to ball.
McCarty’s Midfield Drive Spurs Red Bulls
McCarty started the move that led to New York’s equalizer with an impeccable tackle on Arnaud on the halfway line as Montreal’s captain surged forward. His unerring drive and growing influence on the Red Bulls was evident when the former F.C. Dallas man rallied team as they huddled before the second half kicked off.
An early Impact move down the left saw McCarty positioned deep in his own penalty box to clear at the front post. It’s an area that he fills better than anyone on the Red Bulls roster when selected in the holding role.
McCarty forced another midfield turnover on 50 minutes that allowed Palsson to stride forward and find Cooper 40 yards from goal. The Red Bulls’ top scorer evaded Rivas’ challenge and sidestepped Ferrari before pulling his left-foot shot wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Montreal Gain Numerical Advantage Yet Lose Parity
Marsch had switched Nyassi to a forward role in the second half with Montano dropping into midfield. Another disputable refereeing decision on 58 minutes did more to swing the game in Montreal’s favor than any tactical maneuvers. Palsson, who’d been cautioned after four minutes for an unnecessary lunge at Rivas inside Montreal’s half, bumped Montano in the back as the 20-year-old Colombian slowed up to play a pass. It was an innocuous foul. Marsch and his players protested vehemently and referee Elfath produced a second yellow card.
Montano flashed a free header wide of the far post on 62 minutes and Felipe drove a 30-yard shot off the post a minute later as space emerged in front of New York’s defense. Montano missed another great chance to put Montreal ahead from the rebound, scuffing his shot into Meara’s arms. The goalkeeper was called into action again on 64 minutes to keep out Corradi’s volley after the much-traveled striker outmuscled Holgersson at the edge of the box.
The Red Bulls efficiency in front of goal allowed them to take the lead on 67 minutes. Miller received the ball just inside his own half with space to attack, and the Costa Rican played a one-two with Lindpere that took him to the byline. Montreal right-back Jeb Brovsky was needlessly drawn infield toward Lindpere, allowing Miller time to pick out a cross. Donovan Ricketts dived to palm the ball toward the penalty spot, where Richards arrived first to drill a cool finish into the roof of the net.
No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wenger replaced Rivas on 72 minutes as Marsch changed to a 3-4-1-2 formation with Nyassi back on the right and Montano in the hole behind Corradi and Wenger. Neagle and Justin Braun came on for Corradi and Warner in the final 10 minutes as Marsch tried to salvage a point.
The changes came too late to have an effect. New York’s back line and four midfielders formed two solid banks that the hosts couldn’t break down. Nyassi found a way to goal in the final minute, but Meara kept him out with a diving save to his right.
Montreal, unbeaten in our games coming into the weekend, missed the injured Mapp’s guile on the left side as Arnaud and the erratic Nyassi failed to pose any threat to New York’s full-backs. That meant their attacks became rather one-dimensional and reliant on good fortune from a Corradi knock-down rather than any creative spark.
It wasn’t pretty from the Red Bulls either. A fifth straight win without Henry, and four of them without Marquez, suggests that the rank-and-file among Backe’s roster have developed a stronger bond than at any time during the Swede’s tenure.