Calen Carr and Brian Ching both scored as the Houston Dynamo beat Toronto FC 2-0 Saturday for their fourth straight victory.
The Dynamo (10-5-7) moved to second place in the Eastern Conference and extended their unbeaten streak to 5-0-2, having allowed just one goal in their last seven matches.
"We really took advantage of our chances," Houston's Brad Davis said. "Guys were willing to get behind the ball and get on the attack today and it worked out for us."
Carr put the Dynamo on the scoreboard in the 45th minute. Davis sent in a corner kick that Houston defender Bobby Boswell deflected to a wide-open Carr, who headed it in from the right side of the six-yard box for his third goal of the season.
"A terrible goal to concede, especially at that time," Toronto coach Paul Mariner said. "That's when you should be on your mettle. The last kick of the half, you have to be resolute. Takes the wind out of us a little bit."
Houston widened its advantage in the 86th when Davis set up Ching with a beautiful touch pass and the Dynamo captain put it past Toronto goalkeeper Milos Kocic with ease.
"Brian came on today and battled unbelievably hard, did a great job and got himself a goal," Davis said. "We've been a tough team to break down lately."
Toronto (5-12-4) snapped a three-game winning streak.
Both Houston goals came on defensive gaffes as Toronto played sluggishly after more than a week off since its last MLS game.
"The fight wasn't there, we made it too easy for Houston," Toronto forward Ryan Johnson said. "They were beating us on second balls and there wasn't enough effort on our end. If we don't bring it against Houston, you're not going to beat them."
Toronto came out sluggish in the second half until the 54th minute when Quincy Amarikwa battled for position with the ball in the six-yard box, but was taken down hard by two defenders. The newly-acquired forward pleaded to the refs but to no avail.
Houston continued to maintain possession as midfielder Boniek Garcia fired in a left-footed shot in the 57th that went just wide to the left.
The Dynamo slowed down the pace to protect their lead, though Toronto had a chance to tie it in the 73rd when midfielder Luis Silva put a deflected header just over the crossbar.
Impact 3, Red Bulls 1
The Montreal Impact's Italian connection finally got together to show what it could do.
The result was perhaps the expansion club's best game of the Major League Soccer season as Marco Di Vaio scored his first goal and former AC Milan star Alessandro Nesta was superb in his debut match as the Impact downed the New York Red Bulls 3-1 on Saturday night.
"I finally scored my first goal and it felt great because it was in an important game against a good team," said Di Vaio, the crafty striker who broke the ice in his eighth MLS match since he became Montreal's first designated player in June.
"It was extremely important for us to win."
The former Bologna star's goal in the 48th minute was followed two minutes later by one from team captain Davy Arnaud, while substitute Sanna Nyassi added an insurance goal in the 75th for Montreal (8-13-3). Midfielder Felipe Martins, a Brazilian who learned Italian playing in Switzerland, had three assists.
Thierry Henry scored his 11th of the season in the 57th minute for New York (11-6-5).
The sellout crowd of 19,441 at Saputo Stadium, mainly there to see Nesta's MLS debut, leapt to their feet and teammates mobbed Di Vaio after his goal.
"I was really happy for him," Nesta said of his friend and former Italian national squad teammate. "It's a few games he's been here and now he's opened the account, and it came in a big game against a good team."
Nesta was given a rousing ovation on his first touch of the ball. The 36-year-old didn't disappoint as he took charge of the defence while spending much of the night shadowing New York star Henry.
"I'm happy with the win," the 36-year-old said through an interpreter. "I'm pleased with the way the team played and I felt good out there.
"But the important thing is we have to keep winning if we want to get into the playoffs."
The occasion saw the Impact sell out recently expanded Saputo Stadium for the first time since it re-opened in June. The facility will hold 20,341 when a section at the east end is completed later this year.
The goals came against Red Bulls keeper Bill Gaudette, who played for Montreal in the NASL last season.
"We didn't play our brand of football tonight," said Gaudette, whose team went into the match in first place in the Eastern Conference. "Montreal's a good team.
"They deserved the win, but we didn't play the kind of football we've been playing."
The Impact have been building a strong Italian presence since the start of the season, first with the (now injured) forward Bernardo Corradi and defender Matteo Ferrari. Later came Di Vaio and Nesta, who started the game paired in the central defence with former Inter Milan player Nelson Rivas of Colombia.
Nesta, named four times to UEFA's team of the year, was a key pickup as the Impact has struggled to keep ball out of their net this season.
"He was the boss of the defence tonight," said Hassoun Camara, who was bumped to right back by Nesta's arrival. "He talked a lot with us and gave us instructions defensively.
"It's great for us to have a guy like this who brings his experience. It's the last 10 games of the season now and we have to be good."
Rivas was substituted after 76 minutes by Ferrari, as both returned from injuries.
Felipe slid a pass to Justin Mapp, who slipped the ball to Di Vaio on the left side, giving the veteran time to tee up and fire a low shot past Gaudette for the opening goal.
Nesta's long ball upfield set up the second goal, as Felipe sent Arnaud in alone to score on a low shot.
Henry eluded Nesta with the Impact calling for an offside call and got the ball alone on the right side to flip over Donovan Ricketts.
Di Vaio backfooted the ball to Felipe to feed Nyassi alone on the left side for the insurance goal.
"I'm happy for Di Vaio," said coach Jesse Marsch. "He's committed himself in a good way and now he has an understanding of what this is.
"We knew it was a matter of time. Now he can move forward and bag a bunch of them."
There is concern that Di Vaio may be lost to a suspension of three to six month if he is found guilty in an Italian court of failing to report fraud. A decision is expected Aug. 8 or Aug. 9 on a match-fixing investigation involving a 2011 game between Bologna and Bari.
"I'm playing football, I'm concentrating on the game," Di Vaio said. "It's not easy but I'm not worried. I didn't do anything wrong."
The festive crowd saw a an entertaining but scoreless first half with glittering chances at both ends.
Ricketts bobbled Henry's free kick and saw Markus Holgersson shoot the rebound over the bar in the 12th minute. Gaudette stopped Mapp in alone and later blocked a point blank attempt from Arnaud.
But the best chance went to New York's scoring ace Kenny Cooper, who forced Ricketts into a diving save off a corner kick in the 34th minute.
Montreal improved its home record to 7-3-2.
New York's Dax McCarty saw his fifth yellow card and will sit out the next match at Houston. Montreal stays home to face Philadelphia next Saturday.With files from The Canadian Press