MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact are running out of time and solutions to save their season.
A 1-0 loss to last-place FC Cincinnati (6-21-3) on Saturday night has seriously hurt Montreal’s MLS playoff hopes with three games remaining this season.
Eighth-place Montreal (11-16-4) is three points behind seventh-place New England, which has a game in hand after tying Orlando City 3-3 on Saturday.
"Losing against Cincinnati is one of the worst things that can happen to the players," said Impact coach Wilmer Cabrera. "Everyone thought we had to win no matter what at home, which is the truth."
Montreal conceded a goal in the opening minute of play to Allan Cruz as the already-eliminated FC Cincinnati snapped a four-game losing skid and ended a stretch of nine matches without a victory.
The Impact failed to score for the second consecutive game as they dropped to 1-5-1 in their last seven matches, a slump that could see them miss the playoffs for the third straight year.
Cabrera’s men fired 17 shots towards the Cincinnati goal but only managed one shot on target.
"In this game, if you cannot score goals, you’re never going to win, you’re always going to lose," said Cabrera. "We’re trying to find the way, we’re trying to practise different things. We’re being aggressive. But right now, we didn’t do it.
"I want to take that responsibility. It’s me. I have to find the way to give them the confidence to score goals."
Twenty-six seconds is all it took for Cincinnati to jump ahead — its first lead in a game in nearly a month.
A cross into the box from Emmanuel Ledesma was poorly cleared by Rudy Camacho and the ball dropped to Joseph-Claude Gyau. The winger’s shot was then blocked by Samuel Piette right into the path of an unmarked Cruz, who beat Evan Bush for his sixth goal of the year.
"When you go down 30 seconds into the game, it plays into their hands," said Bush, who made two saves. "We’re talking about a team that has the worst defence in the league. I read somewhere that they were on pace to be one of the worst defences in the history of the league.
"We gave them a 1-0 cushion and let them play the way they want to play."
The Impact pressed hard for an equalizer for the remainder of the match but not even Ignacio Piatti’s return from an adductor injury could jump start the team’s flat offence.
In the sixth minute, Piatti stole the ball from a Cincy player in an advanced position but Maximiliano Urruti wasted the chance by not shooting quickly enough.
Piatti nearly scored less than a minute later but he botched his shot from 12 yards out and missed the net.
Montreal’s best chance of the game belonged to Urruti in the 40th. On the Impact’s ninth shot, their only shot on target, Urruti sliced a volley from close range but goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton made an incredible reaction save to preserve the clean sheet.
Chances were few and far between in the second half.
Bush kept his side in the game with an acrobatic one-handed save on Gyau in the 78th minute.
That save nearly paid off when Bacary Sagna was taken down in the penalty box by Gyau in the 82nd but referee Ramy Touchan refused to point to the spot. Boos rained down from the 17,159 at Saputo Stadium while coach Cabrera watched incredulously from the sidelines with his arms in the air.
But there was no redemption for the Impact, who dropped both their matches this season against league-worst Cincinnati following a 2-1 loss in Ohio back in May.
"You find out in these moments what the guys are made of, what the character is of individual guys and collectively," said Bush. "So far, the last two months we’ve been failing that pretty miserably."
Cincy was reduced to 10 men when captain Kendall Waston was shown a second yellow card in the 88th minute for unsporting behaviour.
Notes: Montreal plays its final three matches versus the L.A. Galaxy, Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls. â€¦ The Impact were coming off a two-week international break. â€¦ Montreal outshot Cincinnati 17-8.