Impact concede 2 goals late, settle for draw with Sounders

Montreal Impact's Ignacio Piatti, right, holds off a challenge from Seattle Sounders FC's Gustav Svensson during first half MLS soccer action in Montreal, Saturday, March 11, 2017. (Graham Hughes/CP)

• Seattle 2 (Lodeiro 83’, Bruin 90′ + 4), Montreal 2 (Mancosu 17’, Piatti 51’)
• Ignacio Piatti scored one goal, set up another
• Biello: ‘We let Seattle back into the game’

MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact looked set to right a terrible wrong on Saturday night after a limp effort in their curtain raiser a week ago.

But they couldn’t close the deal, conceding twice late in the game, and they had to settle for a 2-2 draw with defending MLS Cup winners Seattle Sounders in their home opener before 34,373 fans at Olympic Stadium.

Ignacio Piatti scored and set up Matteo Mancosu’s opening goal, the Argentine showing his genuine class on both plays. Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro converted from the penalty spot, and Will Bruin netted the winner deep into injury time after the Impact couldn’t clear their lines during a scramble inside the 18-yard box.

Before the collapse, Montreal put in a balanced performance that bore no resemblance to their tame effort in a 1-0 loss away to the San Jose Earthquakes on the first weekend of the regular season. Known for their counter-attacking style and sitting deep, the Impact were dangerous in transition on this night, especially down the flanks. The Impact also managed to control the game with solid possession play, forcing the Sounders to chase for long stretches.

But that hardly mattered to coach Mauro Biello, who called out his players for their lackadasical defensive play in the dying moments, signalling out Hernan Bernardello for his failure to close down Seattle’s Cristian Roldan in the buildup to Bruin’s equalizer.

“It’s as if my team was just waiting for the final whistle, and that’s what pissed me off. In the end, you have to play with urgency all the time,” Biello fumed in the post-match press conference.

“Hernan went to close down [Roldan], he got around him, he puts a cross in, hesitant in the box—goal. You can’t hesitate, you can’t be casual.”

He later added: “I’m disappointed we let Seattle back into the game.”

Captain Patrice Bernier echoed his coach’s sentiments, telling Sportsnet: “We played well on the balance of play, but that really doesn’t matter if you can’t close out games. In this league, if you don’t play for 90 minutes, you get exposed. That’s what happened tonight.”

Impact newcomer Chris Duvall started his second consecutive game at right fullback with incumbent Hassoun Camara serving a one-match suspension. Victor Cabrera sat out the game in San Jose due to a hip injury (Camara played in his place), but the Argentine returned on Saturday and started beside Laurent Ciman in the centre of defence. Other than that, Biello went with the same starting 11 he used in the season opener.

Former Impact midfielder Harry Shipp (traded to the Sounders in the off-season) made his first start and appearance for Seattle on Saturday.

Montreal looked vulnerable at times in the first half, undone by Jordan Morris’ pace and Lodeiro’s trickery with the ball. But for the most part, the host side dominated the proceedings. A week ago, the Impact’s veteran midfield core looked every bit of its age. On this night, though, they played liked youngsters, with Marco Donadel harrying Seattle players when in possession, Bernier breaking up plays, and Piatti pulling the creative strings.

The Impact’s pressing game allowed them to put the Sounders under early pressure and pin them inside their half. The opening goal came in the 17th minute. Piatti played an exquisite through ball from the middle of the pitch for Mancosu, who slipped in behind defender Roman Torres, rounded goalkeeper Stefan Frei and scored into an empty net.

After setting up Mancosu, Piatti doubled Montreal’s advantage early in the second half on a fabulous individual effort. The Argentine ace collected the ball inside his half, went on a probing run straight down the middle (without being closed down by Torres and Chad Marshall) and unleashed a shot from outside the box that beat Frei.

The Impact handed the Sounders a life line when Ciman was called for a foul on Oniel Fisher inside the 18-yard area. Lodeiro slotted home the ensuing penalty, and Montreal got away with one late in regulation when Morris was judged to have handled the ball (it actually hit his chest) in the buildup to what should have been the tying goal.

But Seattle did tie things up deep into injury time, when Bruin scrambled home a shot from in close. A collective groan could be heard throughout the “Big O,” the crowd realizing the Impact threw the game away. Biello knew it, too.

“I’m sure that when I go [re-watch] the game, that I’m going to see there were a lot of good things. We didn’t play well in San Jose, and I can’t say that we played bad in this game. I can’t,” Biello stated.

The last time the Impact played at Olympic Stadium—against Toronto FC in the first leg of last year’s Eastern Conference final—kickoff was delayed roughly 30 minutes because the stadium crew incorrectly painted the lines on the pitch. There were no such issues this time around.

NOTES: Montreal’s next three games are on the road: New York City FC (March 18), Chicago Fire (April 1) and LA Galaxy (April 7). The Impact then return home to host expansion club Atlanta United FC on April 15 at Stade Saputo… The Impact’s first home opener in MLS attracted 58,912 fans to the Big O in 2012, when they drew 1-1 with Chicago. Davy Arnaud scored the team’s first MLS goal. Current Montreal forward Dominic Oduro played for the Fire in that game…

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