CHESTER, Pa. - The Montreal Impact tightened up defensively on Saturday, but had to rein in their offence to get it done.
Montreal couldn't match last week's five-goal performance, instead settling for a 0-0 draw against the Philadelphia Union to end a three-game road losing streak in Major League Soccer.
"I think if you look back at our last five games on the road, we've given up goals," said assistant coach Mauro Biello, manning the sidelines in place of the suspended Marco Schallibaum. "Three goals, four goals, we wanted to make it a point to play well defensively. On the road it's not easy to win, and if we're able to shut a team down on the road, I think it's a good sign."
The Impact (12-7-6) improved to 42 points, and now sit in a three-way tie for first in MLS's Eastern Conference with the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City.
The two American clubs caught up to Montreal as New York beat D.C. United 2-1 and Kansas City edged the Colorado Rapids 2-1.
The Impact, however, have two games in hand heading into September.
"We would like to create separation, but we know how hard it is," Biello said. "Every game is difficult. They're a team, fighting like us and trying to get into the playoffs. They did a good job tonight and didn't give us much. Defensively they shut down Marco and Felipe and they didn't get much room. It's a playoff type game, where no one really wants to give up much and try to accumulate the points where you can."
Slow to start, Montreal could only muster one first half shot on goal. Pouncing on a Philadelphia turnover, Justin Mapp's 24th minute shot was knocked down by Zac MacMath into the path of an onrushing Marco Di Vaio. But the Impact's star striker missed his shot wide and was ruled offside on the play.
Troy Perkins made a key save for Montreal to keep the game scoreless at the half. Latching onto a low cross, Sebastien Le Toux's one-time effort was parried away by the sprawling Impact goalkeeper.
Jack McInerney's follow-up effort went wide of the near post.
"The last five or six road games have been really hectic, really crazy," Perkins said. "We had a bit of a calmness to us, and it showed. We didn't give up too many chances, and we didn't create many either, but I think defensively we were solid tonight and it's a great building block for us to move forward."
Perkins came up big again in the 57th minute, denying a fierce McInerney strike from 25 yards . The Impact backline was able to clear after the ball bounced around dangerously inside the penalty area.
Di Vaio looked to have scored his 16th goal of the year in the 61st minute after a nifty bit of interchanging play. Freeing himself inside the left channel, his curling effort beat MacMath but was called back for another offside flag.
Philadelphia came closest in the 77th, when Fabinho crossed superbly for an unmarked McInerney inside the six-yard box. But the snake-bitten Union striker couldn't make contact and the ball sailed past a frozen Impact backline.
"It's a good result for us away," said Montreal captain Patrice Bernier. "We were okay. It wasn't a great game for us but we defended well. They had one or two solid chances, we had one or two also, so it was a fair enough game. They had most of the control, maybe we had heavy legs, but we managed to come out with the result and we wanted to come up with points on the road. Lately we haven't been coming home with any points, so at this time of the year one point is good for us, and a blank sheet at the same time."
The result gave the Impact its first road point going all the way back to a 3-3 draw against Toronto on July 3rd. Schallibaum's team had been outscored 9-2 in three road losses since that game.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Montreal ended a three-game losing streak. In fact, Montreal ended a three-game road losing streak.