Lack of offensive polish haunts Impact again in loss to New York City FC

Montreal, which has a tenuous hold on a playoff position in the Eastern Conference, failed again to win a second consecutive contest, its record now 7-11-2.

New York City defender Ronald Matarrita (22) and Montreal Impact forward Bojan Krkic (9) battle for the ball during the first half of the match between the New York City and the Montreal Impact at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in New York. Dennis Schneidler / USA TODAY Sports

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The Impact certainly was well rested, playing its first game in a week.

But a lack of offensive polish cost Montreal, which lost 3-1 to New York City FC on Saturday night at Yankee Stadium. But the final score wasn’t indicative of the play.

Jesus Medina opened the scoring in the 68th minute, although the Impact dominated the second half and produced numerous attempts.

Maxi Moralez, who missed seven games with a knee injury and was making his first start since Sept. 12, added an insurance goal in the 83rd before second-half substitute Tony Rocha scored in the 86th.

Romell Quioto scored the Impact’s only goal in the 89th. It was his seventh tally this season, tying a career high.

It was NYCFC’s first victory in four matches, and improved its record to 9-8-3. The Impact, which has a tenuous hold on a playoff position in the Eastern Conference, failed again to win a second consecutive contest, its record now 7-11-2.

The story of the first half was James Pantemis, the Kirkland goalkeeper who kept the Impact in the game. Pantemis was making his third Major League Soccer start for Clément Diop, who returned to France briefly more than a week ago for personal reasons. Diop has since returned to the club and is serving a mandatory period of quarantine.

NYCFC directed four shots at Pantemis through the opening 45 minutes, and there’s no denying his stellar play allowed the Impact to go to the intermission at halftime in a goal-less draw. This clearly was Pantemis’ best start of the three, and it was obvious he has gained confidence with each outing.

In only the game’s fifth minute, Moralez directed a high shot from the top of the box that Pantemis deflected over the net.

Pantemis came up big again in the 18th, denying Gary Mackay-Steven from just outside the box.

In the 30th, much-maligned Montreal defender Rudy Camacho, who has struggled at times this season, had a nice block on Medina, although he took the brunt of the force off his chest and was temporarily winded.

Three minutes later, it was Mackay-Steven, again, this time from distance. But Pantemis stood his ground and made the stop.

The visitors thought they took the lead in the 35th. Amar Sejdic set up Bojan, who has been the Impact’s best player lately. Although he beat ‘keeper Sean Johnson, the play was deemed offside.

The Impact started the second half strongly, as NYCFC was on its heels, but simply couldn’t find the back of the net.

In the 61st, Sejdic fed Quioto, who attempted to pick the short side from in close, but Johnson got a piece of the shot and the ball deflected off the bar.

Only three minutes later, the Impact had a two-on-one break. Captain Samuel Piette fed Quioto. But instead of sending the ball back to the unguarded Repentigny native, Quioto’s shot sailed well over the net. Piette appeared to be disgusted on the play.

Despite its advantage in play, the Impact fell behind when the aforementioned Camacho was guilty of a weak clearing attempt. The ball went to Medina, who had an easy score for his third goal of the season. Pantemis had committed earlier on the play and was out of position.

Four minutes later, manager Thierry Henry, seeking an offensive spark, replaced Camacho with Maxi Urruti and Ballou Tabla was sent in for Bojan.

In the 79th, with the score still 1-0, Quioto fed second-half sub Maxi Urruti, who did well quickly redirecting the cross. But he couldn’t get enough power behind the ball.

The Impact returns to action Tuesday night against Nashville.