Match Recap: Union weathers Impact in Montreal, earns point

The Union fought back after a nightmare start and earned a point in the driving rain at Stade Saputo in Montreal.

Union first XI: Blake; Gaddis, Marquez, Yaro, Rosenberry; Creavalle, Nogueira; Pontius, Barnetta, Le Toux; Sapong

Impact first XI: Bush; Oyongo, Ciman, Cabrera, Tiscot; Oduro, Bernier, Piatti, Shipp, Donadel; Drogba

This had all the makings of a classic letdown match. Every excuse was available to a tired Union side: it was a scant three days after a draw with the Galaxy at home, the U had to travel to Montreal and play in one of the craziest places in MLS against the well-rested Impact, and the weather was terrible on match day to boot. And a scant five minutes into the match, all of that appeared very relevant as Didier Drogba scored off of a failed clearance on an Impact corner in the third minute, and then two minutes later, Ignacio Piatti did a bit of dancing in the box and let rip with a shot that hit the left post.

But the Union stuck to the game plan, which is the same at home and on the road: press, press, and press some more. The boys in blue grew into the game and began to take possession, creating chances, and in the 24th minute, it all came home as Chris Pontius crossed the ball to Sebastien Le Toux, who hit a square ball to CJ Sapong dead in front of the goal. Sapong made no mistake of it and it was 1-1.

The sides traded chances and possession, with Montreal looking particularly dangerous on counters. Andre Blake was called upon to stop several dangerous shots, perhaps none more than a Drogba free kick from the edge of the box that the Jamaican touched over the bar. Keegan Rosenberry limited Ignacio Piatti on more than one occasion (and has some people calling for him to be named Rookie of the Year). Richie Marquez went down in distress in the 39th minute and was attended to with what was revealed by Chris Winkler at half as a hip pointer. He would go on to stay in the match. Soon after Blake denied Drogba on a rocket of a header with a great reflex save, the kind of save we see almost every match from him that he makes look routine but are actually really difficult. The half ended 1-1.

The second half saw more of the same: the Union having more of the ball (they finished the half with 50 percent possession and ended the game with 52 percent) and Montreal attacking on counters and buildup when they could manage to break the Union press. Perhaps sensing heavy legs were coming on, Jim Curtin used all three of his subs on this night, putting Fabian Herbers on for Chris Pontius in the 66th minute and pushing CJ Sapong out wide where Pontius had been. Herbers soon had a quality chance when he was one-on-one with Impact keeper Evan Bush and went for the nutmeg but Bush got a heel to it and Le Toux couldn’t get on the end of the rebound. The Union’s offense seemed to sputter when Vincent Nogueira was removed for Brian Carroll in a defensive substitution in the 74th minute that perhaps seemed to signal that Jim Curtin would be satisfied with an away point, although the Union continued to play their style and take the game to Montreal.

By the time Roland Alberg was subbed on for Tranquillo Barnetta in the 85th minute, however, it was certainly not out of the question the Union could come all this way and leave with nothing. Montreal (and especially Oduro, who was burning down the right side all night) threatened repeatedly to take all three points, and when four minutes of stoppage time was announced, it felt like an eternity to wait. The threat passed however due to some nifty team defending as waves of white shirts came back to mark even in stoppage, and the Union grabbed a very important point in Montreal as they continue this grueling stretch of their schedule.

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