The Montreal Impact returned to its winning ways on Saturday, defeating the Chicago Fire 2-0, in front of 19,773 spectators at Stade Saputo. Midfielder Andres Romero and forward Marco Di Vaio scored for the home side, while goalkeeper Troy Perkins earned his third shutout of the season, making four saves.
The team remains undefeated at home this season, going 3-0-1 in four games played.
With the win, the Impact jumps into first place in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of Sporting Kansas City, which plays tonight, and three ahead of the Houston Dynamo, with games in hand on both.
The Impact opened the scoring on a nice buildup in the 57th minute that started from the defensive third. Second-half substitute Wandrille Lefèvre, making his first ever appearance in MLS, played a long ball to midfielder Andrea Pisanu down centre field. Pisanu then put a ball into space deep down the left flank for Argentinean Andres Romero, who dribbled into the box before cutting away from goal and firing one top corner towards the opposite post. Romero scored his first ever goal in the Impact uniform, while Pisanu and Lefèvre earned their first ever assists.
The second Impact goal came in the 76th minute when defender Jeb Brovsky played a chip over some Chicago defenders that found Daniele Paponi just inside the box, right flank. Paponi played the ball after one bounce back towards the half-circle where Di Vaio, with his back towards goal, spun around and fired a bouncer passed Johnson, low to his right. It was Di Vaio’s fourth marker of the season, all coming at home.
A number of other of firsts took place for the Impact in this game as Paponi made his MLS debut, earning his first ever point on the Di Vaio marker and defender Dennis Iapichino made his first start of the 2013 season at left back.
The Fire played with a man down after the 63rd minute when Chicago midfielder Jeff Larentowicz was show a red for a dangerous foul.
Defender Alessandro Nesta (adductor) and Pisanu (quad) were subbed out in the second half due to injuries.
“We played a very good game today,” said Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum. “I saw a team that really wanted to win this game. They showed a lot of character and worked very hard to get that first goal. We believed all the way until the last minute and I’m very proud of the guys.”
“Things happen very quickly when you get on the field as substitute,” said midfielder Wandrille Lefèvre. “I didn’t even have time to get nervous. I knew that I was coming in as a central defender despite being a natural midfielder, so I just told myself that I can’t make any mistakes keep it simple.”
“Coming off of a tie here against Columbus in our last home game, and then that result against Toronto, it was important for us to win this game,” said team captain Davy Arnaud. “We knew it was going to be tough, but it’s a very good result for us.”
“There were a lot of positives in today’s game,” said Daniele Paponi. “I was happy with my performance, but as a team, we played really well. We created a lot of chances.”
In the 11th minute, an Impact free-kick from about 40 yards out, right of goal was chipped into the box by Di Vaio who found defender Hassoun Camara far post, but his header was caught by the Fire goalkeeper.
The Fire responded with a chance of its own in the 17th minute when outside midfielder Joel Lindpere cut to the middle and fired a shot from just outside the box that Perkins knocked down.
The Impact came close in the 27th minute when Pisanu, deep down the left flank, cut back and played a right-footed cross to forward Paponi in the box. The former Bologna man put a header towards the far post that just sailed wide.
In the wake of a corner kick two minutes later, defender Dennis Iapichino played the ball back towards the top of the box, following a clearance attempt, where Jeb Brovsky was waiting with his back towards goal. He brought the ball down with his chest, turned and fired a low shot that just missed the short post.
A free-kick following a red card just outside the box in the 66th minute was hammered through the wall by Di Vaio, but Fire keeper Sean Johnson was able to get a touch for a corner, diving to his left.
In the 82nd minute, midfielder Patrice Bernier, making a run down the right flank, played a ball towards the penalty spot for Paponi, whose one-timer was stopped by Johnson.