The Montreal Impact went down to Austin, Texas on a mission. Mission accomplished. The Impact defeated the Austin Aztex, 3-2, in a lively contest Saturday night, sweeping the two game series and move into the next round of USSF D2 playoffs against the Carolina RailHawks.
Ali Gerba Does it Again
Montreal won the first leg of the series at Saputo Stadium 2-0, but the tussle at Austin’s House Park was much tougher. But as he has been the last few months, Canadian international Ali Gerba was the difference maker. Gerba, who scored both Montreal goals Wednesday, added another brace in Austin. His first came in the 4th minute of the match, as he ran onto a Philippe Billy free kick to place the ball past Aztex goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo.
The Aztex had an opportunity to level the score five minutes later, but Matt Jordan dove to his left to deny Jamie Watson’s penalty kick. Jordan continued to keep the Aztex off the scoreboard, saving a header from Watson in the 18th minute and a point-blank shot by forward Maxwell Griffin in the 27th. But the Aztex finally beat Jordan in the 43rd minute, with Watson assisting Griffin with on a headed goal. The first half ended tied at 1-1.
Gerba put the Impact ahead again four minutes after intermission, as he beat Gallardo with a low shot after receiving a pass from Impact midfielder Leonardo Di Lorenzo. But the Aztex had no quit in them, and came back to tie in the 58th minute as USSF D2’s second leading 2010 scorer Eddie Johnson beat Jordan from a pass by midfielder Lawrence Olum. The hopes of the Aztex fans were growing again, as the team needed two goals in the final half hour of the game. Jordan had to leave the contest because of a groin injury, and was replaced by Srjdan Djekanovic, who played almost half the Impact’s regular season games. Djekanovic was able to shut down the Aztex the rest of the way, and veteran Eduardo Sebrango gave Montreal the win in the 89th minute with a high shot that became his sixth Impact’s game-winner.
Although Aztex fans were disappointed with the result, they have much to feel happy about in 2010. The Aztex, under Coach Adrian Heath, were the best team in USSF D2 until the last weeks of the season, and won the team scoring title. Tripling their wins total from five in 2009, the Aztex played very attractive soccer and were fun to watch. They lost this playoff series to the hottest team in USSF D2, and came back and found some of their scoring touch in the second leg. Hats off to Aztex’ owner Phil Rawlins and Coach Heath and the Aztex players on a great season.
The Impact, meanwhile, are successfully addressing the frustration their many fans felt earlier in the season with their current form. Coach Marc Dos Santos has found a winning combination and the train is picking up speed as it heads down the tracks. Gerba and Sebrango have been magnificent upfront, while the midfield has played with energy and creativity and the defense has been consistent.
Congratulation to Coach Dos Santos and the Impact organization and players for their playoff win. The Impact looked primed to repeat their 2009 USL-1 playoff championship. They will continue into the semifinal round, facing the Carolina RailHawks Thursday at Saputo Stadium, with the second leg coming Sunday at WakeMed Soccer Park. Should be a great series.
Austin Starting Lineup: Gallardo, Sakuda, Needham, L. Griffin, Brill, L.Watson, Olum, Alvarez, J. Watson, Johnson, M. Griffin Subs Used: Allen, Yoshitake, Fuller
Montreal Starting Lineup: Jordan, Pizzolitto, Braz, Billy, Aaboubou, Testo, Ribeiro, Donatelli, DiLorenzo, Sebrango, Gerba Subs Used: Le Gall, Djekanovic, Placentino, Agourram, Charles
Filed under: Austin Aztex, Montreal Impact, NASL General News, Uncategorized, USSF Division 2 News, Website News | Tagged: Adrian Heath, Ali Gerba, Eddie Johnson, Eduardo Sebrango, Marc Dos Santos, Matt Jordan, Maxwell Griffin |