On Wednesday evening the Puerto Rico Islanders hosted the Montreal Impact at Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel. The Islanders started the evening in the sixth USSF D2 playoff position, two points ahead of the Impact, but the Impact came back from a one goal deficit to win 2-1 and move past the Islanders into the sixth playoff spot. The Islanders now slip into the seventh spot with a 8-9-9 mark, ahead of NSC Minnesota, while the Impact improve to 9-10-7.
The first half ended scoreless, as each team probed the other’s defense without success. Both teams seemed tentative early, and August USSF D2 Player of the Month Ali Gerba was unable to do much with the little service he received from his Impact teammates. The Islanders attacking was better, but they were unable to take advantage, although they were able to get off six shots compared to Montreal’s one, and had five corners compared to Montreal’s three, in the first 45 minutes.
The second half was an entirely different story. The Islanders broke the ice five minutes after intermission, as captain Noah Delgado stepped up. The midfielder, who has played in over 130 games for the Islanders since 2005, scored his first goal of 2010, after being denied by Montreal keeper Matt Jordan in the first half. Delgado worked a rebound off a Montreal defender into the top of the net.
But Ali Gerba proved that his Player of the Month award was no fluke. Near the hour mark, he equalized for the Impact, taking a pass from midfielder David Testo and beating Bill Gaudette with a low shot. Fifteen minutes later, Gerba unleashed a 30 yard-blast into the upper corner of the Islanders’ goal that proved to be the game-winner. Although Colin Clarke’s Islanders responded and had late chances, a free kick by Josh Hansen right outside the 18 yard box was punched away by Jordan, and a header from a Sandy Gbandi corner kick went over the Montreal crossbar and the Impact left smiling with all three points.
Ali Gerba is hot, hot, hot, now having scored seven goals in his last three games. The Canadian international, who’s scored 15 goals in 29 national team appearances, is on his fourth go-round with the Impact. A native of Cameroon, his club resume looks like a tour of Europe. He’s played in England, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and also in Toronto in MLS. Hopefully this talented individual, only 27 years old, can find his niche with the Impact this time around and stay in Montreal. I’m sure Coach Marc Dos Santos wouldn’t mind at all.
Dos Santos certainly knew this was a big game for the Impact. ““This is a very important win for us and three big points,” he said. “We battled during the whole game. The conditions were not easy, but the players adapted well and showed character by coming back from behind. Our second half substitutions also responded very well. Now we have to go to Miami with the same attitude.” The win certainly solidifies Montreal’s playoff chances, and lessens the odds that more than one of the NASL expansion teams, NSC Minnesota, FC Tampa Bay, AC St. Louis or Crystal Palace Baltimore, will make the playoffs in October. The victory is Montreal’s third in a row, and they’ve only allowed one goal in the three victories.
The Impact play the Blues Saturday, while the Islanders host a shoot-out with the USL first-place Austin Aztex as a full slate of USSF D2 games are played this coming Saturday.
Notes: Montreal’s Adam Braz left the game with a thigh cramp. Former Minnesota Thunder forward Marco Terminesi was back in action for Montreal after missing a month due to an appendicitis, but defender Simon Gatti is still out with a groin injury. The Islanders outshot the Impact 13-5 in the game and won in the battle of corner kicks 8-3. Islanders” forward Nicholas Addlery missed the match as he was representing Jamaica in their friendly match with Peru Tuesday night in Miami. His presence may have made a difference for the Islanders, as he has been in good form.
Puerto Rico Starting Lineup: Gaudette, Horst, Martinez, Velez, Villaroel, Jagdeosingh, Telesford, Delgado, Daniel, Foley, Hansen Subs Used: Salem, Bangura, Gbandi, Fana, Emory
Montreal Starting Lineup: Jordan, Aaboubou, Billy, Pizzolitto, Braz, Ribeiro, Testo, Donatelli, Sebrango, DiLorenzo, Gerba Subs Used: LeGall, Terminesi, Mayard, Pelletier, Charles