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Harry Novillo opens account, leads Montreal Impact to 1-0 victory over Columbus in home opener

MONTREAL — On the first true day of spring in the city, the Montreal Impact delivered fans a win in their home opener.

Harry Novillo ended a tumultuous two weeks by opening his MLS account Saturday. After a scoreless first half, the Frenchman’s strike proved to be the game-winning goal of the Impact’s 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew.

“The first one is always the toughest, so I hope it will follow,” Novillo said. “What’s most important for me is that the team brings back three points. I don’t see it as an end of sorts.”

Head coach Remi Garde was pleased to see Novillo get his first goal, but said he expects him to do even better. 

“I’m happy for him because the first time you play in [your own] stadium it’s important to do well,” said Garde. “He scored, but I know that Harry can give much more to the team.”

In Ignacio Piatti’s absence, Novillo was asked to step up at the left wing position. The winger hopes this will kickstart his goalscoring with the Impact despite only having started two games in 2019. 

“I’m not close to 100 percent yet, but the first thing that’s in my mind is to help the team,” Novillo said. “Defensively, I’m trying the maximum that I can, and as long as the fitness gets in I will get closer to the 100 percent.” 

Garde wants the team to improve on its performance Saturday. In his mind, “a draw could have been the result reflecting this game.” 

3-game week, 3 clean sheets

The win marks the end of the Impact’s first three-game week of the season. With a 1-0-2 record, the bleu-blanc-noir recorded their first three clean sheets of the campaign as well.

“It’s satisfying. Three weeks ago, we had a really bad game [against Sporting Kansas City], we were aware of that,” said Garde. “Since then, we brought things back in order, not all of them, but to a point where we beat Columbus in a week where we had three games.

“There are games in the season where you need to know how to win in this way against teams that are tough to handle.”

The Impact are aware they will face similar multiple-game weeks with MLS’ tighter schedule. For Samuel Piette, the result over the last three games brings the team confidence that the impact will also perform in those weeks.

“We want to stay as positive as we can,” Piette said. “We have a great bench as well, we proved it in DC with guys that came in the lineup they can do a difference. During the season, we will have ups and downs, but we want to try and stay as consistent as possible. I think that it’s crucial in this league.

“It’s funny, I think it was an accident in Kansas City. We got too confident after two wins and one loss. We came back to basics and that worked for us, even today.” 

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