Impact ride Piatti brace to road win over Whitecaps
Montreal leaves impression on Vancouver in 3-2 road triumph
The Montreal Impact showed they're more than a one-man band on Sunday.
Ignacio Piatti scored twice, Dominic Oduro added one of his own and Evan Bush made a number of key saves as the Impact defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-2 in the Major League Soccer season opener for both clubs.
Montreal was without striker Didier Drogba because of what artificial turf does to his 37-year-old knees, but the Chelsea legend was hardly missed against the bumbling Whitecaps.
"He's a superstar, but I stress the importance of everybody on this team and the roles that they play and the responsibilities that they have," said Impact head coach Mauro Biello. "Each one of them is important and when they get their opportunity it's about moments and being good in those moments."
Drogba scored 11 goals in 11 games after joining Montreal partway through last season, helping to lead the club to the second round of the playoffs, but will be used sparingly early in 2016 because four of the Impact's first five games are on turf.
"With the quality of players that we have we feel that we have a balanced attack," said Biello. "When Didier comes back it's only going to help us more."
Jordan Harvey and Kendall Waston replied for the Whitecaps, who lost last season's opener 3-1 at home against Toronto FC and were ruing a number of costly mistakes against the Impact.
'Gifted Montreal the win'
"I think we gifted Montreal the win today. That's an honest assessment," said Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson. "We scored two goals at home, [but] if you give three bad goals away you don't win games."
Piatti put the visitors ahead in the 19th minute when he dribbled through the Whitecaps' defence with ease and fired a shot past goalkeeper David Ousted.
Vancouver, which finished second in the Western Conference in 2015, nearly got even when Octavio Rivero hit the crossbar seconds after the restart before Bush stopped the Whitecaps striker on another good chance 10 minutes later.
Montreal survived that flurry and went up 2-0 in the 42nd on another defensive breakdown from the Whitecaps when Piatti played a ball forward from the halfway line for Oduro that Ousted charged out of his net to meet.
But instead of booting the ball to safety, the 'keeper completely whiffed with Waston also in the area to hand Oduro and the Impact their second in front of a stunned sellout crowd of 22,120 at B.C. Place Stadium.
"That's some of the worst I've played as a Whitecap," said Ousted. "I'm gutted for the team."
Montreal took a turn making a defensive miscue in the 45th minute to let Vancouver back in the game when a wide-open Harvey got on the end of a Pedro Morales free kick to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Impact substitute Anthony Jackson-Hamel nearly put things out of reach in the 60th, but his shot hit the post behind Ousted, and Piatti's follow-up attempt flashed wide.
Bush was at his best in the 68th minute when he thwarted Rivero again with a spectacular diving stop that had the Montreal 'keeper at full stretch.
"It was instinctive. I put myself in a spot that you train to put yourself in," said Bush. "Unfortunately he got more of a free header than we would have liked."
The Whitecaps continued to press, but the Impact caught them on the counter attack in the 88th minute when Piatti took a feed from Oduro and beat Ousted to the far post for his second of the afternoon.
"In different moments he made it look easy," Biello said of Piatti. "He's a first-class player and when he plays like that it's hard to defend."
Waston added a consolation goal for the home side off a corner in stoppage time to round out the scoring.
"We gave ourselves a shot just before halftime with an excellent free kick," said Robinson, whose team also lost in the second round of last season's playoffs. "We kept knocking on the door. Unfortunately in the second half we couldn't open it."