COLUMBUS, Ohio – The game hadn’t even begun, and it was already not Montreal’s night.
One week after being officially eliminated from post-season contention, the Montreal Impact were lined up at Crew Stadium with a chance to damage the Columbus Crew‘s hopes of ending a two-year playoff drought.
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But as a singer attempted to get the night underway with the Canadian national anthem, his microphone suddenly cut out after a few lines.
An instrumental version would have to suffice, and the visitors would find no further quarter in the United States.
Ethan Finlay scored in the second minute, Federico Higuain added a penalty kick in the second half and the Crew (11-9-10) remained hot with a 2-0 win against Montreal (6-18-6).
Impact coach Frank Klopas wasn’t even there to see the end of the game.
He was ejected in the 66th minute for arguing the penalty that gave the Crew its second goal, shaking hands with the Crew coaching staff as he passed the home bench en route to the locker-room.
“I was just complaining,” he said.
“It was very hard for me, the PK call that he called. I know that maybe Jeremy (Gagnon-Lapare) made some contact, but the guy is going to the corner. There’s no goal play. There was no danger. Maybe he loses the ball in the corner. The guy calls a PK. I’ve never seen a softer PK call in my life.”
An announced sellout crowd of 20,318 was still finding its seats when the Crew found its quickest goal of the season.
After midfielder Justin Meram initially lost the ball along the left sideline in the Crew’s attacking half, he made a second effort to win the ball back before sending a square pass to teammate Wil Trapp on the opposite side of the field.
There, from the centre circle, Trapp accelerated into a wide-open middle of the field as Finlay made an attacking run.
With Maxim Tissot and Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare trying to close him down, Finlay split the two would-be defenders, collected Trapp’s pass and blasted a right-footed effort past goalkeeper Evan Bush.
It was the earliest goal allowed by the Impact this season, and for a team that entered the night winless this year when allowing at least a goal (0-13-5), it was again too much to overcome.
“It was a great finish that happened real quick, but it was so early that we couldn’t really think about it,” said Montreal midfielder Dilly Duka, who spent his first three seasons with the Crew.
“We just had to play like it was 0-0. They’re a good team and they create a lot of chances. They missed some chances, but I thought we did too. I thought if we converted our chances, it would’ve been a hell of a game.”
Montreal has now been outscored 33-13 on the road this season and has not won away from Stade Saputo since Sept. 8, 2013 – a span of 19 games (0-15-4).
Columbus doubled its advantage 13 minutes into the second half thanks to the officiating.
After Crew defender Waylon Francis found Meram wide open along the left sideline, he was picking out a target inside the box when Gagnon-Lapare tugged the jersey of Finlay inside the area.
As Finlay fell to the ground, Gagnon-Lapare was shown a yellow card and the Crew awarded a penalty kick.
In the 58th minute, Higuain beat Bush to his right for his team-leading 11th goal of the season and fifth on eight penalty kicks.
The Impact were awarded a penalty kick when Crew defender Tyson Wahl fouled Issey Nakajima-Farran inside the penalty area in second-half stoppage time.
Marco Di Vaio took the penalty kick, but his hard right-footed effort was saved by a diving Steve Clark.
“I said in 30 games we’ve played we’ve had one PK called (for) us,” Klopas said.
“I know he gave us one late, but there was another handball in the box with Tyson Wahl turning on Marco’s shot. For me, to give up a PK call like that for 2-0, I don’t want to go there because whatever I say is going to come back and bite me but it was a tough call on the road to go 2-0 behind after giving up a very fast goal.”