Despite running out to a two-goal lead through Justin Mapp's first two goals of the MLS season, the Montreal Impact were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
"It's unlucky for us to lose two points at the end, but it is OK given how hard we played on a tough day play," said Montreal coach Marco Schallibaum. "With all the things San Jose does, it was a good presentation for our team."
Mapp scored either side of halftime to stake the visitors to the lead, but the relentless pressure from the home team eventually earned San Jose the draw when Sam Cronin equalized in the first minute of stoppage time.
"We travelled this far and we know road games are never easy, but we were there with a chance going into injury time," said Mapp. "You see time and time again San Jose come back and we were a victim of that today."
Montreal played conservatively against the Earthquakes, content to soak up pressure in the back and punch back on the counterattack. Mapp's goal in the 24th minute was a perfect execution of that strategy, but if not for the effort of goalkeeper Troy Perkins, the Impact may never have held the lead.
"Our goalkeeper made some miracle saves," said Schallibaum. "He has good quality and is a gift to this team."
Perkins was called upon again and again to play big against the Earthquakes, but he knew going into the match that his defence was not going to get the day off.
"It is not always pretty," said Perkins. "They are going to come tooth and nail, and it's not going to be pretty. You have to be able to match them blow for blow."
The Impact, though dominated statistically, were efficient when they needed to be. As the Earthquakes pressed forward to get back into the game, Montreal nearly produced a third goal via the counterattack that would have perhaps sealed an important road victory.
"We had opportunities and in the end," said Mapp. "I thought we did enough to get out of here with three points, but unfortunately they made a play at the end."
The sentiment that two points had been lost was shared by Schallibaum.
"We scored two and there was a period to score a third but we didn't do it," he said. "I am very proud of this team, it wasn't easy with the travel and the weather to come here and stand 95 minutes like this so it was a good job by our players."
Coming off an impressive 6-0 victory in midweek in the Amway Canadian Championship, the Impact could be excused for playing tentatively against the Earthquakes. Instead, even with a blazing California sun bearing down on them, the team did very well to stifle the hosts.
In the 14th minute, Perkins made a tremendous save to keep the match scoreless when he parried away a powerful Chris Wondolowski header. The shot attempt followed a rebound off the crossbar that came courtesy of San Jose rookie forward Adam Jahn's volley seconds earlier.
The Impact defence created a turnover from the Earthquakes' Justin Morrow in the 24th minute that landed at the feet of Mapp. With space to drive forward, and after shaking off a tackle attempt by Shea Salinas, Mapp unleashed a knuckling shot from 40 yards out that clipped the inside of the post and eluded San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch.
Perkins was at it again in the 28th minute as San Jose looked certain to get an equalizer. A cross into the area was chested down by Wondolowski into the path of teammate Rafael Baca, who lashed a shot that Perkins did well to push over the crossbar.
Following the halftime restart, Montreal doubled its lead in the 47th minute after applying their own pressure on offence. After seeing teammate Andres Romero's cross attempt snuffed out by defender Victor Bernardez at the edge of the six-yard box, forward Andrew Wenger raced in to send a strong cross to the far post for Mapp to tap in for his second goal of the afternoon.
Up two goals, but with nearly a full half to play, Montreal bunkered down for the inevitable onslaught from the Earthquakes. The home side attempted more than a dozen corner kicks on the afternoon, but the Impact defence stood tall on every one.
The Earthquakes started their comeback in the 59th minute when Jahn finished off a pair of assists from Wondolowski and Cronin. Perkins dove for the shot, but was unable to stop the rookie from netting his third goal of the season.
Montreal had a great chance to put the match away in the 71st minute when Wenger intercepted a ball at the centre line ahead of Bernardez and drove in one on one with Busch. Wenger's shot attempt was low, but the San Jose goalkeeper guessed correctly and smothered the attempt.
Mapp nearly added a third goal in the 84th minute when he found himself isolated against defender Nana Attakora. However, instead of sealing the victory, Mapp failed to get off a shot attempt and the Earthquakes dodged another bullet.
After failing to get a third goal, Montreal finally relented on defence as the game entered second half stoppage time. A hopeful ball into the area by Walter Martinez was knocked down into the path of Cronin at the top of the area.
With time to touch the ball and goalkeeper Perkins shielded on the play, Cronin deposited the equalizing goal inside the far post to give both teams a share of the spoils on the afternoon.
Up next, Montreal leaves San Jose with a point and heads for New York for a midweek clash against the rival Red Bulls on Wednesday night.