Montreal Impact end Toronto FC’s undefeated run at 18 regular-season games

Montreal Impact end Toronto FC's undefeated run at 18 regular-season games

Rudy Camacho’s 14th-minute goal lifted the Montreal Impact to a 1-0 win Tuesday, ending Toronto FC’s club-record unbeaten streak in MLS regular-season play at 18 games — one short of the league mark.

League-leading Toronto had a chance to score in first-half stoppage time but Alejandro Pozuelo’s attempt at a trick play from the penalty spot — trying to set up teammate Pablo Piatti with a short pass rather than go for goal himself — backfired.

In the past, the likes of Johan Cruyff and Lionel Messi have pulled off the stunt. Impact manager Thierry Henry, then playing for Arsenal, was involved in a failed attempt to do it with penalty-taker Robert Pires in 2005.

It seemed needlessly cute from Pozuelo, who needs no such trickery to convert from the penalty spot.

Impact midfielder Emanuel Maciel was sent off in second-half stoppage time for a tackle that scythed Michael Bradley to the ground, only to have the call downgraded to a yellow card on video review.

Toronto (5-1-3) had most of the possession and got in more good positions than Montreal but was unable to be clinical in front of goal. The Impact (4-3-1) stood firm and counter-attacked when possible.

WATCH | Camacho’s early header elevates Impact past Toronto FC:

Rudy Camacho’s 14th minute marker was the lone goal in a streak-busting 1-0 victory for the Montreal Impact. 1:03

For the third game in a row, there were no fans allowed at BMO Field due to the global pandemic. A group of chanting supporters, waving flags and firing off the occasional flare, took up a position on the other side of barriers at the northeast corner of the stadium.

With no one in the building, there were no anthems and the game started after players took a knee.

The Impact went ahead after a sloppy pass by Toronto ‘keeper Quentin Westberg led to a corner. Romell Quioto got the ball on the set piece and Camacho beat fullback Justin Morrow to head home the cross.

The goal ended Toronto’s shutout streak at 374 minutes — and Westberg’s run of three clean sheets.

Toronto had a chance when Jozy Altidore went down late in the first half. There seemed little contact with Camacho and the Impact disputed the call. But Canadian referee Drew Fischer pointed to the spot.

TFC’s tricky penalty called offside

That’s when things got strange. Pozuelo, usually a lock from the penalty spot, tried to be fancy by nudging the ball to his right rather than firing at goal — leaving it for onrushing Piatti to knock it in.

But Fischer waved it off, for encroachment, and Montreal was awarded a free kick with Piatti deemed to have interfered in the play.

“Wowzers .. don’t get cute. It’s a penalty kick. Hit it,” tweeted former TFC and U.S. international forward Herculez Gomez, now a TV pundit.

The league record for consecutive undefeated games in the regular season is 19, held by Columbus (July 3, 2004, to April 2, 2005) and FC Dallas (May 27 to Oct. 9, 2010).

Impact end undefeated run

Toronto had not lost a regular-season match since Aug. 3, 2019, when it was beaten 2-0 at the New York Red Bulls. It officially went 9-0-9 during the run although the club lost 3-1 to New York City FC on July 26 in the round of 16 at the MLS is Back Tournament, where knockout games did not count in the regular-season standings.

Because of the travel restrictions due to the global pandemic, the three Canadian teams are currently playing a north-of-the-border round-robin with the top team advancing to Canadian Championship final against the winner of the CPL’s Island Games.

TFC had stretched its win streak against the Impact to four games with a 1-0 victory in Montreal last Friday. Pozuelo’s 50th-minute penalty decided a drab game that saw just three shots on target (two by Toronto and one by Montreal).

Toronto also beat Montreal 4-3 at the MLS tournament in Florida.

Both teams got players back for Tuesday’s game.

Altidore returned to the starting lineup while fellow forward Ayo Akinola came on in the 61st minute. Altidore sat out Friday’s game in Montreal for personal reasons while Akinola had been nursing a hamstring injury since scoring five goals in two games at the MLS tournament.

Montreal midfielders Saphir Taider and Samuel Piette returned to the starting lineup after being with their wives for the births of their children. Spanish attacking midfielder Bojan (adductor) and forward Anthony Jackson-Hamel (knee) started on the Impact bench after returning from injury.

Altidore put a free kick on target from outside the penalty box in the second minute but Impact ‘keeper Clement Diop was up to the task. Diop had to be sharp in the 12th minute to deal with the fallout of a poor clearance attempt.

Altidore made a nuisance of himself midway through the first half, appealing unsuccessfully for a penalty after going down and then, soon after, breaking through the defence only to see Diop get to the ball first.

Quioto found himself behind the Toronto defence on a through ball in the 32nd minute but defender Chris Mavinga got back to break it up.

Diop made an outstanding reflex save in the 43rd minute to deny a sliding Altidore, who got a foot to the ball on a fine cross by Brazilian fullback Auro.

Altidore’s flick off a fine Pozuelo feed went just wide in the 62nd minute.

Toronto visits Vancouver on Saturday and Montreal on Sept. 9. After hosting TFC, Montreal flies to Vancouver for games Sept. 13 and 16.

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