MONTREAL — Jeisson Vargas ended the Montreal Impact’s four-game goal-less drought and the Impact snapped a four-game losing streak Saturday in a hard-fought 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo at Stade Saputo.
The Impact had not scored for more than 400 minutes of play when Vargas found the back of the net just before halftime, a blast from the edge of the Houston penalty area. It was the 20-year-old’s fourth goal of the season.
“I think everybody welcomed the fact that we at least scored a goal; everybody worked hard for that,” Montreal head coach Rémi Garde said after the game. “Jeisson scored a fantastic goal, like he can do. He has a fantastic ability to strike. The speed of his turn on his first touch and to shoot the ball very quickly was fantastic.”
Garde was most encouraged by the effort of his players in the game. Defensive struggles have been a big issue for the Impact, who’ve conceded the most goals in MLS. But the team worked tenaciously to protect its slim lead. The Dynamo’s dangerous attack, spearheaded by the physically imposing Alberth Elis, was limited to a mere one shot on target.
“There’s definitely relief, we can’t deny it,” Garde said. “We’ve been in a very difficult period. We can’t say were out of it yet, but we made an important step tonight. The manner, the collective spirit in which we played tonight—the fact that we didn’t concede—was a very good base to build on. We defended tooth and nail to defend this lead.”
It helped the Impact were fully rested for the game. The Dynamo came off a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, and that forced Wilmer Cabrera into making several changes. Romell Quioto, Tomás Martinez and Mauro Manotas, all very dangerous attacking players for the Dynamo, started on the bench.
Montreal Impact forward Raheem Edwards (14) kicks the ball against Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis (23) and defender Leonardo (22) during the first half at Stade Saputo. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
The only major change for Garde was switching from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 formation, mostly to accommodate Vargas, who played in the No. 10 position.
Neither team created very many chances throughout the game, however the Impact enjoyed the majority of possession. The Dynamo defended with a medium block and looked to play direct balls to Elis. Although he managed to get in behind the Impact back line on several occasions, the Impact’s central defensive pairing of Jukka Raitala and Ron Fanni coped well with the Honduran, who was left isolated far too often.
Struggling to play through the Dynamo’s lines of defense, the Impact were at their most dangerous when shooting from distance. That’s how Ignacio Piatti nearly scored in the 20th minute, sending a shot off the crossbar. It almost went in after the downward deflection, but the ball bounced just off the line.
Returning from injury, Vargas often struggled to find the game. Garde acknowledged the Dynamo did a good job of limiting space in between their defense and midfield lines. But seconds before the first half ended, the Chilean managed to capitalize with limited space. Samuel Piette, who had a strong game in defensive midfield, recovered possession in the Houston third and quickly sprayed a pass to Vargas, who was closely marked. But Vargas still managed to deftly deliver a strike into the top corner.
The Dynamo played higher up the field in the second half and started to take more chances. Quioto, Martinez and Manotas were all eventually subbed on, but all three had little effect.
On this day, there was no getting by the Impact, who defended ferociously.