MLS Playoffs: Bush and Piatti are the Impact heroes

Much to the chagrin of their fans and the organization, the Red Bulls fizzled out in the playoffs again.

Trailing only 1-0 from the first leg in Montreal last weekend, they squandered a first-half penalty kick that would have tied the series, and failed to convert several other chances.

Early in the second half the first of two goals by Ignacio Piatti dropped the Red Bulls further into a hole they never climbed out of. The Impact’s 2-1 victory in the second leg pushed it to the Eastern Conference finals, 3-1, on aggregate.

Montreal advances to the conference finals and will host the first leg against Canadian rival Toronto FC on Nov. 22. The team announced the game is to be played at the Olympic Stadium rather than Stade Saputo.

Last year, New York won the Supporters’ Shield and defeated D.C. United in the conference semis but fell to Columbus, 2-1, in the conference finals. This time they repeated as regular-season conference champion and stumbled at the first hurdle by succumbing to a very potent counterattacking opponent.

Montreal keeper Evan Bush stoned Sacha Kljestan on a penalty kick in the first half to preserve that 1-0 first-leg lead. Shortly thereafter, Kljestan left the field for about 10 minutes so team trainers could treat a nose gushing blood after Marco Donadel whacked him across the face with an elbow.

Six minutes after the break Piatti controlled a pass from Dominic Oduro, stepped past defender Chris Duvall and rifled a rising shot that keeper Luis Robles flailed at and missed.

Bradley Wright-Phillips, one of several players guilty of wasting scoring opportunities, finally tapped home a deflected pass in the 77th minute but because of Piatti’s away goal New York still needed two more. Instead, the Impact broke away again and substitute Didier Drogba slid the ball into the path of Piatti, who drilled a shot low past keeper Robles.

The Red Bulls outshot Montreal. 17-7, but were thwarted by superb performances by centerback Laurent Ciman and holding midfielder Donadel as well as their own ineptitude. Wright-Phillips, defenders Aurelien Collin and Damian Perrinelle, surprise starter Gonzalo Veron, and substitute Daniel Royer all misfired. But Kljestan’s failure was the most glaring.

Sent to the penalty spot after Bush had tripped up Veron, Kljestan hit his penalty well but couldn’t get it past Bush, and halftime the Red Bulls had nothing to show for their sustained possession. They were able to contain Matteo Mancosu, whose thunderous strike had decided the first leg, but Piatti had far too much class for Duvall on the first goal and on the second one polished off a superb move prompted by Oduro’s run.

Montreal’s victory snapped a seven-game losing streak at Red Bull Arena and sent it into its first conference finals series since it joined MLS in 2012.
Nov. 6 in Harrison, N.J.
New York Red Bulls 1, Montreal Impact 2.
(Montreal wins 3-1 on aggregate.)
MTL: Ignacio Piatti (Dominic Oduro) 51.
NY: Bradley Wright-Phillips (Daniel Royer) 77.
MTL: Ignacio Piatti (Didier Drogba) 85.
New York --  Robles; Duvall, Perrinelle, Collin, Zizzo, Felipe (Grella, 59), McCarty, Veron, Kljestan, Muyl (Royer, 53), Wright-Phillips.
Montreal -- Bush; Camara, Cabrera, Ciman, Oyongo, Bernadello (Venegas, 88), Donadel, Bernier (Mallace, 65), Piatti, Oduro, Mancosu (Drogba, 80).
Yellow cards: NY Red Bulls – Felipe 19, McCarty 74, Kljestan 89; Montreal – Bush 56, Ciman 63, Venegas 90+2.
Referee: Baldomero Toledo.
Att.: 24,314.

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