The Union’s 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact on Saturday wasn’t just consequential for the standings. It was the Union’s first win at home over Montreal in five years. And as the team’s veterans know all too well, the Union blew leads in all but one of the five contests in that span, falling victim to the Impact’s long tradition of counter-attacking soccer on the road.
This time, the Union got on the front foot and stayed there. It wasn’t a perfect performance — especially Kai Wagner’s rash red card tackle at the end — but no one will complain about a 3-0 score.
“They’re always problematic," Union midfielder and captain Alejandro Bedoya said of Montreal. “You can’t get sucked into their style of play, because we know they’re dangerous on the counter. … I don’t think the second half was the way we would have liked to play, but we still got the three points.”
Bedoya had a front-row seat to one of the Union’s most famous blown leads in the series, in April of 2017. The Union went up 3-0 in 39 minutes, but Montreal rallied and secured a 3-3 tie with an 87th-minute equalizer. Bedoya had some harsh words for his teammates in a fiery postgame press conference.
This time, Bedoya only had to lightly chide Cory Burke for passing up a chance to score on an open net, instead leaving the ball for Bedoya to shoot.
“I was just giving him crap in the locker room — I’m glad it fell to me so I could score a goal, but he’s got to put that away,” Bedoya said. “I’m tough on guys, just like I’m tough on myself, and he knows that he should have finished that.”
The Union team that beat Montreal on Saturday was different, and frankly, much better.
“We got killed and embarrassed” in the game last year, Curtin said. “Every team has one [opponent] that maybe they don’t match up against, or whatever it might be, or a little bit of breaks here or there, luck. But we changed that, I thought, today."
And there need not be any disclaimers about the Impact missing star playmaker Ignacio Piatti. The Union were without playmaker Marco Fabián (sprained ankle) and centerbacks Auston Trusty (red card suspension) and Mark McKenzie (appendicitis), which balanced the ledger.
Curtin said he challenged his team before the game to step up. They clearly did.
“Do we want to be average, and be in that fight for 5th through 10th or 12th, in the Eastern Conference, or do we want to be a team that moves forward?” he said. “The guys really stepped up to that challenge today. It wasn’t a beautiful win, but it was three points that no one will remember at the end of the year.”
For now, though, the circumstances won’t be forgotten.