The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Impact keep low profile after ugly loss in Houston in first MLS playoff game
MONTREAL - The Montreal Impact opted to lay low on Friday after an ugly loss in their first Major League Soccer playoff game.
Only a handful of tweets filtered out of the team that lost 3-0 and had three men sent off in a single-game knockout playoff loss to the Dynamo in Houston on Thursday night. Players were not made available to the media.
"Rage for us and our supporters," forward Marco Di Vaio tweeted. "But it has been #IMFC first playoffs ever. Next year we will not fail. #determination."
It was a nasty end to a season that saw the Impact raise championship hopes with a 9-3-2 start to their second season in MLS only to fall apart over the final four months.
They slipped into the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot despite a lifeless 3-0 loss in Toronto in their regular season finale.
While they had a better start in Houston, glaring mistakes left them down 2-0 at the intermission.
The second half was widely described as an embarrassment, as defender Nelson Rivas was sent off in the 69th minute for taking a second yellow card and both Di Vaio and Andres Romero were ejected after a melee in the dying minutes.
Both Di Vaio and Romero were suspended and fined. Along with an automatic one-game suspension, Di Vaio was suspended two additional games and fined US$1,000. He will begin serving the suspension with the first regular season game of the 2014 season.
Romero, who also received a red card and an automatic one-game suspension, was suspended an additional two games.
Houston coach Dominic Kinnear received a one-game suspension for entering the playing field, and will not be permitted on the sideline or in the locker-room during the Dynamo's game on Sunday against the New York Red Bulls.
MLS also fined both teams for violating the league's mass confrontation policy. After repeated mass confrontation violations in 2013, the Impact were fined $25,000 and coach Marco Schallibaum was fined $2,500. The Dynamo were fined $5,000.
Romero, a 55th minute substitute, started the fracas as he kicked at a ball that was underneath a fallen Dynamo player.
The Argentine midfielder later apologized on Twitter, saying he "felt great impotence and no I couldn't control. Excuse me!"
Fullback Jeb Brovsky told the Impact's website that the way the game ended was "a shame. It's no way to go out. Hopefully we learn from tonight for next year."
Impact president Joey Saputo, who has been known to send scorching tweets when the team does poorly, was silent.
Team management is to meet with the media on Tuesday to go over the season.
There are plenty of questions to answer.
One is why captain Davy Arnaud was not even dressed for the biggest game of the season. And Felipe Martins, one of the top midfielders, only got on as a substitute.
Instead, Schallibaum started Collen Warner and little-used Andrea Pisanu in the midfield. He also opted to start Rivas in place of injured defender Alessandro Nesta, even though the oft-injured Colombian had not played a game since September 15, 2012.
Perhaps it was to shake up a team that went 1-6-1 down the stretch and wasted a chance to take third place with a feeble performance in Toronto.
Matteo Ferrari, wearing the captain's armband, whiffed on a ball at the edge of the penalty area to give Houston striker Will Bruin an easy goal 16 minutes in.
Then Hernan Bernardello, a midseason designated player signing, committed a needless foul inside the box on a player already covered by two men to give Boniek Garcia a goal from the penalty spot.
Then Rivas committed his second obvious foul of the match and was sent off, followed shortly by Bruin's second goal of the game on a counter-attack with Montreal down a man.
Broadcaster and former Impact player Jason deVos tweeted that it was "awful discipline for #impactmontreal. No excuse for that whatsoever. Three red cards and deservedly beaten 3-0."
Schallibaum said after the game that "the cards were received do not put the club in the best light."
It is not certain of the former Switzerland defender will be back as coach next season. It is believed that a second year on his contract kicked in when the team made the playoffs.
But Schallibaum was suspended four times for a total of five games in his first MLS campaign, and the team looked out of energy, cohesion and ideas in recent weeks.
Nesta, the former Lazio and AC Milan great, has already said he will retire, but his fellow 37-year-old Rome native and 20-goal scorer Di Vaio has announced he will return in 2014.
It would be a surprise to see Romero back. Ditto for Pisanu and forward Daniele Paponi, who were on loan from Italian clubs but didn't show much.
Who knows about Bernardello, who showed flashes of skill but wasn't a difference maker?
And what of Arnaud, perhaps the hardest working player on the team? He looked fine this week and there were no reports of an injury. Missing a playoff game in Houston, near his home town of Nederland, Texas, must have hurt.
The 33-year-old's only tweet read: "Disappointing end to 10 months of hard work. . ."
Former Impact striker Eduardo Sebrango tweeted: "I can't believe that a guy like Arnaud didn't play. May(be) he has less quality, but (he) would have give you 100%."
Veteran Patrice Bernier, who missed the game with a hip injury, kept his message simple: "Thanks to all our fans. You were grandiose this season."
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