The Montreal Impact, playing in their first friendly of the preseason, started slowly and allowed Sporting Kansas City to gain the upper hand thanks to an early Graham Zusi strike. As the first half wore on toward the intermission and the Impact started to find their match legs, Montreal slowly gained momentum and clawed their way to a comeback 2-1 victory in their opener at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in Orlando.
At first the Impact seemed disjointed defensively, allowing Kansas City space to threaten Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins. Zusi gave Sporting the lead in the 18th minute with a screamer from 25 yards, leaving Perkins sputtering with no answer to the precision strike. Montreal would nearly have the equalizer eight minutes later, as team captain Davy Arnaud connected with a Sanna Nyassi cross that was only prevented from crossing the line by a deft save from KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
As the last seconds of the first half wound down in stoppage time, Montreal’s persistence would pay off with an equalizer. Midfielder Patrice Bernier passed a long ball right up the gut of the pitch, finding Italian striker Marco Di Vaio with the pass. Di Vaio, the wily veteran with 176 Serie A goals in a career that began two decades ago in 1993, beat Nielsen with the game-tying shot and drastically altered momentum ahead of halftime.
The two sides would trade chances through the first quarter hour of the second half, but it was introduction of young Impact Academy trialist Maxim Tissot and 2012 SuperDraft #1 overall pick Andrew Wegner in the 60th minute that turned the tables fully in Montreal’s favor. Soon after coming on, Tissot corralled a misplayed ball that Zusi lost; launching the ball into the path of Wenger, who was free on goal, Tissot set up the game-winner with his vision and the former Duke star up front finished the pass perfectly.
Kansas City came close to equalizing a few minutes from full-time, forcing a save from Perkins (who played the full 90 minutes for the Impact). Sporting had made their way eastward after a draw against semi-pro side FC Tucson and a costly victory over the Portland Timbers at the Desert Friendlies in Tucson; the loss to Montreal was their first match of the preseason schedule.
Montreal will try to remain perfect in the preseason when they take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the NASL on Wednesday afternoon. Sporting gets their chance at redemption in the following match of Wednesday’s slate with a showdown against DC United.
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