MONTREAL – Head Coach Patrick Vieira shuffled his pack for this one with two huge games in the space of three days, resting David Villa and starting with Harrison up front with Rodney Wallace and Khiry Shelton on either side.
Ronald Matarrita started his first game in three months for an NYCFC side looking for a sixth road win of the campaign to boost chances of securing the MLS Playoffs bye past the Knockout Round.
We were treated to a lively start at the Saputo Stadium with both sides trading chances right out of the gate.
The returning Matarrita asked questions of Evan Bush with a teasing cross on 3’ leading to a corner which was almost deflected past the Montreal ‘keeper, before Blerim Dzemaili blazed over from the edge of the area at the other end.
Referee Hilario Grajeda had a big decision to make on 9’ when it appeared as though Harrison was taken out by Kyle Fisher on the byline but the protests were waved away, despite it appearing as though the defender went through the Englishmen to get to the ball.
NYC didn’t dwell but instead worked Bush again after some near interplay which freed Wallace for the sidefooted effort that took some saving.
The Boys in Blue wouldn’t be denied for long and it was the dangerous Harrison who opened the scoring with his 10th goal of the campaign.
The stand-in no.9 started and finished a lightning counter-attack, exchanging passes with Wallace before thumping the ball into the roof of the net, leaving Bush no chance.
Scored at the same end as his stunning solo goal in 2016, it seems fair to say that Jack likes this particular part of the world…
That goal was no less than the visitors deserved and they should really have taken a two-goal lead into the locker room with them but Wallace was twice denied from close range with a strike he snatched at and an on-target effort which was blocked brilliantly on the line.
Montreal had one warning shot of their own in additional time but Sean Johnson came to the rescue with a strong save to ensure his team went in at the break ahead.
The pattern of play continued after the interval with NYC racking up the chances but this time Bush was equal to Shelton’s strike when the winger was slid through by Moralez on 54’.
Villa entered the game on 61’ in place of Wallace as he bid to gun down the new Golden Boot leader Diego Valeri and he very nearly leveled with the in-form Portland man but he just turned Harrison’s cross a meter wide.
At the other end, Johnson was required to make another excellent stop on 70′ as he flung himself across his line and palmed away Dzemaili’s goalbound header.
It was turning into an end-to-end affair as Villa’s left-footed volley drew another good save from Bush, before the Spanish international worked the ‘keeper again with a thunderous hit which was, unfortunately (from an NYC perspective), just a little too close to him.
The Impact never gave up and kept pressing forward for the equalizer but, for sheer weight of chances and territorial domination, it would have been a travesty for Vieira’s men to leave Canada with anything less than three points, especially seeing as Villa struck the crossbar with a venomous hit inside the final 5.
NYCFC did hold on for the deserved win, sending them off to the Windy City with a welcome gust of momentum in the blue sails.