The Montreal Impact may have struggled on the road lately, but on Saturday night, the team proved once more that its home game is emphatically back on track.
Marco Di Vaio scored two goals and Montreal won its second in a row with a 5-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo that launches the Impact into first place in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference.
The Impact improved to 12-7-5 for 41 points in 24 games, matching their win total from last season in their MLS debut. Montreal extended its home winning streak to three, and is undefeated in their last five games (3-0-2) at Saputo Stadium.
But in road games, Montreal is winless in its last five (0-4-1) dating back to a 2-1 win in Kansas City on June 1.
"We're playing in Philadelphia next week and then we're in Boston, and Houston later on," Di Vaio said. "Those are all teams that we're competing with to make the playoffs, so it's going to be so important for us to get those points in road games."
Di Vaio and Felipe Martins scored minutes apart in the first half to put Montreal up by a pair. Jeb Brovsky made it 3-0 in the 58th minute and Di Vaio finished off a two-man break on a pass from Patrice Bernier for his fourth goal in two games.
Andrea Pisano added his first Major League Soccer goal and the Impact won its second in a row, and its third straight at Saputo Stadium, to the delight of the sold-out crowd of 20,801.
"The facts speak for us," Felipe said. "When we play like that we can do good things."
Troy Perkins made a diving save on a header two minutes into the second half on his way to posting a clean sheet.
Houston lost for just the second time in its last seven MLS games (4-2-1).
"There was a great opportunity for us before the game and we didn't play well," Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall said. "We didn't play well enough to get a draw, not even close enough to get a win, and when you don't have a very good performance on the field against a team of Montreal's calibre you're going to get a lot of goals scored on you."
Impact forward Justin Mapp slammed a drive off the crossbar from inside the top of the 18-yard box 14 minutes into the match.
Di Vaio opened the scoring with his 14th goal in the 35th minute. The 37-year-old Italian striker took a pass from Mapp and shifted from his right foot to put a left-footed shot into the top left corner.
Felipe made it 2-0 in the 37th minute when he paused to curl a shot around Houston defender Kofi Sarkodie and inside the right post.
"I thought before I took my shot and I'm happy because the ball went in," said the Brazilian forward, who celebrated with a samba as his teammates surrounded him after the goal.
Brovsky scored his second goal of the season off a corner kick by Hernan Bernardello. Dynamo captain Brad Davis headed the kick but it went to Brovsky who put it home from the right post.
"He's a set-piece master," Brovsky said of Davis. "He whips them in pretty well and he put some good pace on it and that's why that far post run is there. If it gets through, you have to be there. That's my job and fortunately I was there."
Bernier's unselfish play made it a four-goal lead as he drove in with Di Vaio and passed to his left for Di Vaio to put home his 15th goal.
Andrea Pisanu scored Montreal's fifth goal in stoppage time.
Impact assistant coach Mauro Biello guided the team in place of head coach Marco Schallibaum, who served the first game of his two-game league suspension.
"This was a big game," Biello said. "Houston was right behind us. They're a good team, a well-coached team. They're there every year. They've been to the finals the last two seasons.
"They seem to always peak at the right moment so we were getting them at a moment where they were 4-1-1 in their last six so it was important. The guys were ready. They knew what was going to be in front of them and they reacted very well."
Schallibaum, who has been suspended four times this season, received an automatic one-game suspension for his ejection from last Saturday's 2-1 win over D.C. United.
The fiery Swiss coach was suspended by MLS commissioner Don Garber for one more game and fined US$5,000 (U.S.) Friday "for his repeated misbehaviour" so he will also miss Montreal's game next Saturday in Philadelphia.