MONTREAL — Prior to Saturday night’s match against the Impact, Revolution coach Jay Heaps cautioned that it would be inadvisable to take Montreal lightly, even if it did have just one win this season.
His reservations proved to be well-founded. New England dropped a 2-0 decision to the Impact but retained its hold on the top spot on the MLS East ladder.
Andres Romero scored off an assist from Marco Di Vaio less than three minutes in, and Montreal had the Revolution on the run almost from the get-go. New England had a very tough time of it in the opening half, leaving the pitch at the interval down by a pair and fortunate not to be trailing by more.
“We were outplayed in the first half and we have to credit their team,” said Heaps. “They came out flying and I don’t want to take anything away from what they were able to do. I think they were spot-on in the first half.”
“The start of any away game is so important,” said midfielder Andy Dorman. “To give up that goal, their fans get going and it gives them a lift and puts us on the back foot.
“I think the game was decided in the first 15 or 20 minutes and they were better than us in that period. I think we had chances in the game but obviously didn’t take them. If we get one goal it puts a little pressure on them but it didn’t come. Full credit to them. They deserved to win.”
Despite holding an edge in possession time, New England (7-4-2) seemed powerless when it came to nullifying attacks. Montreal launched forays toward goaltender Bobby Shuttleworth almost at will while managing to keep the visitors from spending any significant time in threatening spaces, often initiating the offense with long aerial passes.
Heaps addressed the Revolution’s difficulty penetrating the Montreal 20-yard box, saying, “It’s usually where we’re pretty good. At the same time, we couldn’t move it as quickly as we wanted to and they did a nice job. Every time there was a head down or someone needed to make a play, they did. They made a couple good plays to keep us out of there.”
Five of the dozen shots directed toward the New England goal in the opening half were on the mark, while only one of the Revolution’s eight attempts was on frame — Patrick Mullins’s shot in the 28th minute that was easily scooped up goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
New England came closest to scoring in the 32d as Impact central defender Heath Pierce, in an effort to deny a New England attempt, headed a ball inches over his own crossbar.
Montreal (2-6-4) potted its second goal in the 38th. Officially an unassisted effort, Jack McInerney slipped between the New England central defenders and calmly slotted home the rebound of an Issey Nakajima-Farran shot from distance.
Di Vaio almost gave his side a third goal in added time but had his shot nullified by a sliding A.J. Soares seconds before the whistle.
Heaps made a few changes in the second half, bringing on Daigo Kobayashi in the 62d in an effort to take advantage of his playmaking ability, but the move did not spark the offense.
“We changed formations a little bit, tried to throw the kitchen sink at them,” said Heaps. “But it was a little bit too little, too late.”
New England takes on the visiting New York Red Bulls on June 8 in its last match before MLS takes a three-week break for the World Cup.