By JOEL HOOVER
Goals seemed inevitable from the start in a game that featured two of MLS’ most in-form strikers in Golden Boot leader Jack McInerney from Philadelphia and Marco Di Vaio of Montreal.
By the end of the night, there were much more than just two players on the scoresheet, but it was DiVaio who stood out above the rest.
The Italian striker struck a hat-trick just over 30 minutes into the first half and Andrew Wenger nodded home what proved to be the winner as the Montreal Impact held on for a wild 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Union. Blake Smith tallied in stoppage time for the Impact, while McInerney, Antoine Hoppenot, and Sebastien Le Toux all scored for the Union.
Montreal (7-2-2; 23 points) pushed their unbeaten run to three matches with the victory. The loss means the Union (5-5-3; 18 points) have lost all three matches this season against teams in the top half of the Eastern Conference. The five goals conceded was also the worst defensive performance in a game in franchise history for Philadelphia.
Di Vaio quickly opened the scoring in just the 2nd minute, as a low cross from Andrew Wenger on the right found the Italian on the edge of the box. His first-time volley on the left foot found the far corner past Zac MacMath with just 1:19 elapsed in the match.
Moments later, Di Vaio would have an opportunity to double his tally, but his near post effort was tipped over the crossbar by MacMatch.
McInerney quickly responded with leveler in the 5th minute. Sheanon Williams’ cross from the right was only partially cleared to Michael Farfan on the edge of the penalty area, and his slotted pass found McInerney for a sliding turn and finish past Troy Perkins. The goal was McInerney’s 9th of the season and his 6th road goal of the year.
Both teams found plenty of space in the midfield throughout the game, leading to chances at both ends midway through the first half for McInerney and Felipe Martins that just missed, as well as a close effort for Michael Farfan.
Montreal surged back in front in the 28th minute, and it was Di Vaio who was yet again on hand to finish after a perfectly floated ball from former Union midfielder Justin Mapp. Di Vaio was able to beat the Union backline on the offside trap, then chipped deftly past MacMath to restore the lead for the home side.
He would complete his hat-trick just four minutes later after Andres Romero shifted past Sheanon Williams to serve a cross from the end line. Ghosting in unmarked at the back post, Di Vaio expertly volleyed in to complete his treble. His first MLS hat-trick also brought him level with McInerney for the lead in MLS’ Golden Boot race with nine.
The second-year Italian DP had an opportunity just a few minutes after to plunder a fourth goal, but he uncharacteristically fired a volley over in the box. It made little difference though as his side comfortably carried their 3-1 lead into the half, with the Union finding little way of stopping Mapp and Romero attacking incisively down the wings.
Philadelphia pressed to little effect out of the gate to start the second half, as a low strike from Le Toux tipped wide by Perkins was their lone good chance in the early moments. The introductions of Conor Casey and Antonie Hoppenot pressed the issue further as the Union tried to offset their defensive woes with attacking play in the second half.
The Union did pull one back in the 69th minute in fortuitous circumstances, as Antoine Hoppenot’s mis-hit cross from the right found its way over Perkins and into the net to reduce the gap to 3-2. It was Hoppenot’s first goal of the season and gave the Union brief hope of finding an equalizer.
Their push for one more goal led to waves of Montreal attacks as time wound down, and Andrew Wenger profited in the 74th with what proved to ultimately be the match-winner. The 2012 Number 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft headed home Martins’ corner kick at the near post to double the lead once again for the Impact. It was Wenger’s first goal of the season, and further compounded the Union’s marking woes at the back that plagued them throughout the match.
Philadelphia managed to reduce the deficit again in the 85th minute through Sebastien Le Toux’s first goal since the opening day of the season. A long throw from Williams into the box was half-cleared again by the Impact, and Le Toux was able to settle and fire home on his left foot to once again give the Union a chance at an unlikely equalizer.
The pressing for an equalizer once again left the Union prone to counterattacks, through which Montreal were finally able to round off the scoring in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Patrice Bernier made a quick flick over the top of the Union’s high defensive line, and Blake Smith was able to race in and slot past MacMath for his first goal in MLS and the eighth goal of the match.
Montreal vault to second in the Eastern Conference with the win, just one point behind the New York Red Bulls and with three games in hand. The Impact return to action on Wednesday at Vancouver in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship, following a 0-0 draw in the first leg. Their next league match is June 1 at Sporting Kansas City.
Philadelphia retain the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, and will host the Ocean City Nor’Easters the the third round of the US Open Cup Tuesday night at PPL Park. The Union will return to Canada on June 1 for a league match against Toronto FC.
Here are the match highlights: