By JUSTIN FERGUSON
For 95 minutes, it appeared the top two teams in the Eastern Conference had canceled each other out in a physical, yet scoreless draw.
But, in the 96th minute, substitute Blake Smith broke the deadlock with a stunning goal that snapped the Montreal Impact’s five-match winless skid.
The Impact snatched all three points on Saturday night at Stade Saputo, scoring deep into stoppage time to defeat Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City by a score of 1-0. After being out-shot and out-possessed throughout the entire match, Smith gave Montreal the advantage in the most important statistic with his second MLS goal.
Just minutes after being denied by a fine Jimmy Nielsen save, the rookie capped off a superb passing sequence with a low shot that the Danish goalkeeper could not prevent from going into his net.
The goal was a crushing blow for Sporting KC, who came close to a road shutout despite the absence of their starting two center backs. Nielsen made three saves, and the visiting defense blocked three of Montreal’s efforts on goal.
Although Sporting KC fired off more shots, Montreal had the best chance of regular time, a 20th-minute effort from Sanna Nyassi that Nielsen stood tall against.
Claudio Bieler had a trio of chances on goal during the middle stages of the match, but all three shots were denied by Montreal’s Troy Perkins, who made an additional save on a Soony Saad effort.
The physical battle between the two growing Eastern Conference rivals featured 38 fouls and five yellow cards, and referee Armando Villarreal added seven minutes of stoppage time onto the second half.
The Impact swung momentum into their favor in the final minutes of the match and found the goal they needed right before the final whistle. Hassoun Camara played a cutting pass towards the top of the box that found Marco Di Vaio. The veteran striker turned and played a perfect through ball to Smith, and all the substitute had left to do was slot home the winner.
Montreal (10-5-5) travel to last-place D.C. United next Saturday. Sporting Kansas City (10-6-6) will follow up Wednesday night’s MLS All-Star Game with a home match against New York, which will also be next Saturday.
Here are the match highlights: