Matteo Ferrari went from being the first-half goat to the extra-time hero for the Montreal Impact.
After accidentally scoring into his own net only seven minutes in, the veteran defender got it back with a goal off a corner kick in added time on Saturday as the Impact pulled out an unlikely 3-2 MLS victory over Real Salt Lake.
“Actually, today I scored twice,” the 33-year-old former Italy defender said with a laugh. “It’s my ‘doppietta’ (brace), as we say in Italian.
“After the own goal, I had a good answer at the end. I’m happy for the team because we showed the character we have.”
The goal completed a second half comeback after Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman put the visitors ahead 2-1 in the 77th minute.
Only three minutes later, rookie Maxim Tissot started the play that saw Andrew Wenger tip a pass to Marco Di Vaio to tie the game.
With time almost expired, rookie Blake Smith got the ball to Ferrari off a corner kick and the central defender put a sliding shot low past Nick Rimando, as the 14,578 in the Saputo Stadium stands on a chilly afternoon went wild.
“You could see in the second half he wanted to erase the black mark of the own goal,” said coach Marco Schallibaum. “There was a lot of determination there, but that’s what I like about this team.”
The victory kept Montreal (6-2-2) in the race for top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Salt Lake (5-5-2), ended a two-game winning run, but not for want of chances to win.
The visitors’ forward duo of Devon Sandoval and Olmes Garcia gave the Montreal defence fits all afternoon with their height and speed. Besides scoring twice, Salt Lake kept goalie Troy Perkins busy with 21 shots, including seven on target.
Perkins had to reach out a hand to stop a glittering chance from Garcia 15 minutes in that could have given Salt Lake a two-goal lead. And he stoned substitute Joao Plata when the former Toronto FC midfielder was in alone in the 86th.
“I still feel a lot of positive things about how Real Salt Lake approached this match and played this match,” said coach Jason Kreis. “We were aggressive all match.
“I think it was a pretty well-played match. We just have to look at how we finished, because if we had walked out with even one point, I think we’d have felt pretty good about ourselves.”
Midfielder Felipe Martins scored in the first half for Montreal.
The visitors pressured the Montreal defence early and it produced an own goal as Lovel Palmer’s pass into the middle was tipped in by Ferrari, normally the Impact’s most reliable defender.
Montreal got it back in the 39th as Jeb Brovsky sent Justin Mapp down the right flank and his low cross was put in by the sliding Felipe.
Beckerman put Salt Lake ahead as he jumped on a loose ball after a corner kick and scored, only to see Di Vaio tie it up with his sixth of the season.
Then Ferrari came up with his first MLS goal.
“It was a big goal,” said his fellow-Italian Di Vaio. “It’s not easy for a defender to score, especially at the end of a game when you’re tired.
“It was a big win for the team.”
It was also a big day for Tissot, the Impact Academy graduate who picked up an assist in his first MLS start.
He threw the ball in to Smith, who fed it back and then blocked out a defender so Tissot could rush toward the penalty area to feed Wenger for the tip to Di Vaio.
“Most importantly, we got the win, but personally, it was a boost of confidence and it’s going to help me for the upcoming games,” said Tissot, of Gatineau, Que.
The victory kept the Impact unbeaten at home this season at 4-0-1, while Salt Lake dropped to 3-3-1 away.
“Now we’ve officially established this place as a fortress,” said Brovsky, the only Impact player besides Perkins to have played every minute of every Impact match in MLS this season.
The Impact remain at home to face the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of their Amway Canadian Championship series on Wednesday. Then they get a much-needed week off before playing host to Philadelphia on May 25.
Salt Lake played the second of three straight road games. They play next week at Chivas USA.
Salt Lake has never won in 10 MLS games in Canada. They have played six times in Toronto and three in Vancouver. It was their first visit to Montreal.
Notes: Tissot replaced Dennis Iapichino at left back. . . Sanna Nyassi came on in the 87th minute for his 100th MLS game. . . Midfielders Davy Arnaud (concussion) and Andrea Pisanu (right quad strain) forward Daniele Paponi (right hamstring), and defenders Alessandro Nesta (right quad) and Nelson Rivas (left knee) remain sidelined. . . Salt Lake sent defender Nat Borchers home with a flu on Wednesday, which brought Kwame Watson-Siriboe back in the lineup.