Im­pact revved up to be part of ‘401 Derby’

Mon­treal beats Red Bulls 3-1 on ag­gre­gate to set up all-Cana­dian show­down

Toronto Star - - SPORTS/SCOREBOARD - DE­NIS GOR­MAN THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

HAR­RI­SON, N.J.— Evan Bush was look­ing ahead. And why not? The prospect of a Mon­treal-Toronto play­off se­ries was too tan­ta­liz­ing to dis­miss.

“It looks like it’s go­ing to be a 401 Derby, con­fer­ence fi­nal-style,” said Bush, after Ig­na­cio Pi­atti scored two goals in the sec­ond half to lead the Mon­treal Im­pact to a 2-1win over the New York Red Bulls in the sec­ond leg of the MLS Eastern semi­fi­nal se­ries Sunday.

With the win, the Im­pact ad­vanced to the Eastern cham­pi­onship, where they will meet Toronto FC. This marks the first time in fran­chise his­tory the Im­pact have reached the con­fer­ence fi­nal.

“I’m not sure if MLS re­ally likes that,” said Bush, who fin­ished with three saves. “We’re go­ing to be ex­cited about it, our fans are go­ing to be ex­cited about it and Canada as a whole will be ex­cited about it.”

The first leg of the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nal will be held Nov. 22 at the 55,000-seat Olympic Sta­dium in­stead of the 20,801-seat Sa­puto Sta­dium that the Im­pact typ­i­cally calls home.

The Im­pact had won the first leg of the home-and-home se­ries, de­feat­ing the Red Bulls 1-0 at Sa­puto Sta­dium on Oct. 30. Mon­treal won the se­ries 3-1 on ag­gre­gate.

“The ad­van­tage we brought into this game re­ally helped us,” Bush said. “We were able to sit and keep the game in front of us.”

Against the sec­ond-high­est scor­ing team in the reg­u­lar sea­son — NYCFC scored 62 — the Im­pact em­ployed a ver­sion of hockey’s neu­tral zone trap to force New York to play on the perime­ter, in­stead of the mid­dle of the pitch.

“That’s what we’re try­ing to do,” Bush said. “We’re try­ing to push the game wide.”

While the Red Bulls out­shot Mon­treal 17-7 and were even on shots on tar­get (4-4), few shots could be qual­i­fied as dan­ger­ous un­til Bradley Wright-Phillips’ goal in the 77th minute.

“I felt good about our tac­tics,” New York coach Jesse Marsch said.

In an at­tempt to coun­ter­act the Im­pact’s trap, the Red Bulls tried stretch passes to their skilled at­tack­ers. But Mon­treal’s de­fend­ers stayed with the New York for­wards.

“We wor­ried about Wright-Phillips get­ting in be­hind,” Bush said. “They tried get­ting him be­hind a few times.

“When you have an ad­van­tage in a se­ries there’s no rea­son to let a striker get in be­hind you.”

The Im­pact was un­able to cre­ate much of an of­fen­sive at­tack in the first half. Mon­treal was out­shot 6-2 in the open­ing 45 min­utes and trailed sig­nif­i­cantly in time of pos­ses­sion, 58.2 per cent to 41.8. For the game, the Red Bulls had a 64.5-per­cent to 35.5-per-cent ad­van­tage in time of pos­ses­sion.

New York had the two best scor­ing chances of the first half. The first came in the 20th minute as mid­fielder Sacha Kl­jes­tan’s penalty was stopped by Bush.

“Typ­i­cally he goes to the goal­keeper’s left side 75 per cent of the time,” Bush said. “I took a chance, took a gam­ble and went to the other side. And it paid off.”

Prior to halftime, Bush swal­lowed a rel­a­tively harm­less drive off the foot of mid­fielder Sal Zizzo.

Pi­atti broke the dead­lock by el­e­vat­ing a shot over Luis Robles. Pi­atti, who fin­ished third in the MLS with 17 goals in the reg­u­lar sea­son, scored his first of the play­offs.

“At (a) cru­cial mo­ment be­cause usu­ally the 60th minute is a bench­mark where you start get­ting fa­tigued, tired, maybe you lose con­cen­tra­tion,” Pa­trice Bernier said. “That goal came at a good time to give us an ex­tra boost to fin­ish off this game.”

VIN­CENT CARCHIETTA/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Im­pact de­fender Has­soun Ca­mara stretches to stop the run of Red Bulls mid­fielder Gon­zalo Veron dur­ing Sunday’s Eastern con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal clash.

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