So much for the Montreal Impact’s sizzling start to its second MLS season.
The Impact gave up a goal five minutes into play Saturday against two-time reigning Eastern Conference champion Sporting Kansas City and spent the rest of the game mostly frustrated in a 2-0 loss.
Sporting KC (2-1-2) got an early goal from Claudio Bieler and a late goal from Graham Zusi in sending Montreal (4-1-0) to its first loss of the season.
“The possession was better and we had lots of chances, but when you see the whole game Kansas was the better team,” said first-year Impact coach Marco Schallibaum, who was ejected in the 80th minute after Zusi’s goal effectively buried the Impact.
Schallibaum’s frustration must have mirrored that of his team, which had a slight edge in possession but failed to seriously threaten Sporting KC’s goal throughout the match.
Montreal was outshot 21-6 and put only one shot on goal in the loss.
After Zusi carved up the Impact defence, beating defender Karl Ouimette to a slotted pass from Benny Feilhaber and chipping behind goalkeeper Troy Perkins for the 2-0 lead, Schallibaum had seen enough.
He lobbed a half-empty water bottle in referee Jorge Gonzalez’s general direction and was promptly escorted from the sideline.
“I threw a bottle with a little bit of water,” Schallibaum said. “It was two metres from me. It was not on the other side, but it’s OK. I made a mistake, so I’ll wait for a decision from MLS.”
Defensive midfielder Patrice Bernier has been outstanding during the Impact’s sizzling start to their second MLS season. He had three assists in the first four games.
However, in the opening minutes against Sporting KC, Bernier’s terrible giveaway led to Montreal’s early hole.
Bernier tried to roll a long diagonal pass for Hassoun Camara in the right channel, but Sporting KC left back Seth Sinovic intercepted the ill-conceived pass and sprung forward on a quick counter.
Sinovic pushed the ball ahead to Feilhaber, who had several options as he approached the Impact penalty area.
Ultimiately, Feilhaber, who was acquired in a December trade with the New England Revolution, opted to slot a direct pass for Bieler, the club’s Argentinian designated player with a reputation for clinical finishes.
Bieler took a touch around Montreal centreback Matteo Ferrari then lived up to his reputation by pinging the ball past Perkins at the far post for a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute.
“When we lose anytime, it’s not good,” Schallibaum said. “Starting like this after five minutes, to give a goal, was a mistake for our part and it’s difficult especially here in Kansas.”
The Impact nearly went down two goals six minutes later when Aurelien Collin, Sporting KC’s French-born all-star centreback, nodded a free kick from Zusi past Perkins again.
However, Collin was offside and the goal was wiped away.
The Impact settled down defensively the rest of the half, but struggled to break down Sporting KC and mustered only one shot — a soft header well wide and high of goal by Ouimette late in first-half stoppage time — before halftime.
By contrast, Bieler alone had four of Sporting KC’s 10 first-half shots.
Montreal’s best chance at an equalizer came in the 60th minute when forward Marco Di Vaio had a crack from the top of the penalty box, but Sporting KC goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen calmly punched the left-footed volley from danger.
Sporting KC, which stretched its league-best shutout streak this season to 339 minutes, wasn’t content to rest on its lead in the second half.
Off another Montreal turnover, Sinovic got free in the box along the left side, rolling a potential knockout shot inches wide of the right post in the 58th minute.
During the 70th minute, midfielder Paulo Nagamura bent a 20-yard curler toward the same post, missing the upper corner by a foot.
Sporting KC would break through in the 80th minute.
Feilhaber corralled another loose pass by the Impact at midfield then threaded a ball forward through three defenders for Zusi, who cut in front of Ouimette, withstood contact and then chipped a shot behind a sliding Perkins.