By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Although their hot offense put them in a winning position, the Montreal Impact will have to thank goalkeeper Troy Perkins for holding onto three road points on Saturday night.
After falling behind on a controversial penalty at the end of the first half, Sanna Nyassi and Collen Warner netted goals in the second half to grab the Impact a 2-1 win and the top record in the Eastern Conference.
Montreal’s lead was thrown into serious danger in the 74th minute when veteran defender Alessandro Nesta was ejected for headbutting Claudio Bieler.
Perkins had to make several big saves after falling behind a man as a misfiring Sporting Kansas City squad missed multiple chances at a late equalizer.
After a back and forth first half, Sporting Kansas City broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time on Bieler and Nesta’s first incident. Nesta was whistled for tugging Bieler’s jersey, but the Impact defense claimed the foul came outside the box. But referee Armando Villarreal would have none of it, and Bieler converted the penalty after several minutes of arguing from Montreal.
The protests continued after Bieler’s goal, and Montreal head coach Marco Schallibaum received his marching orders during the halftime break.
Montreal did not stew over the controversial call for much longer. Two minutes into the second half, Nyassi chested down an attempted clearance from SKC and laced a low shot through traffic for the equalizer.
Clearance troubles would come back to haunt Sporting minutes later. A bicycle kick from Felipe Martins landed near Peterson Joseph, who completely missed on his chance to get the ball out of danger. Warner pounced on the mistake, and Montreal had a quick 2-1 lead.
Both teams traded chances until the 74th minute, when Bieler and Nesta got tangled up again. Nesta’s retaliation on Bieler’s foul resulted in an automatic ejection, and the veteran defender was soon joining his coach in the locker room.
Sporting immediately went on the offensive following the red card, but chance after chance went by the wayside. Although they forced Perkins to make saves, their best chance of the half finished with a wide stoppage time effort from Kei Kamara.
Both Eastern Conference powers will be off next week. Montreal (8-2-2) travels to Columbus on June 15, and Sporting Kansas City (6-5-4) visit FC Dallas on June 22. SKC will continue their hunt for an Open Cup repeat with a home match against Orlando City on June 12.
Here are the match highlights: