HARRISON, N.J. - It remains to be seen if it was an opportunity squandered for the Montreal Impact.
What was plainly evident was the Impact's collective disappointment following a 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls 1-1 on Wednesday night in Champions League play.
Montreal finished group play with 10 points, meaning the Impact could finish their home-and-home CONCACAF playoff series on the road, which would be to their disadvantage.
"Giving up that late goal makes it hard to swallow," Calum Mallace said after the Impact finished group play with a 3-0-1 record. "It's a good group and everyone has to be on the same page, and be ready, for whoever we get."
Jack McInerney scored Montreal's (6-19-10) lone goal. Goalkeeper Evan Bush made one save. Ryan Meara made two saves for the Red Bulls (12-10-12), who received a goal from defender Connor Lade in the 84th minute.
"We fielded an entirely reserve team," New York coach Mike Petke said. "I'm pleased with the way we performed."
Montreal entered the match having defeated New York 1-0 in CONCACAF play on Sept. 17. The teams had played twice during the MLS regular season, drawing 2-2 on April 5, and New York winning 4-2 on Aug. 28.
The match was important for the Impact, who needed a win to move from sixth to a top four CONCACAF playoff seeding. A top-four seed would allow the Impact to host a playoff game at Olympic Stadium in the second half of the home-and-home series.
"This was (Montreal's) No. 1 priority," Petke said.
While Montreal was attempting to solidify its position in the CONCACAF tournament, New York was attempting to round its game into form for the upcoming MLS playoffs. The Red Bulls are angling for post-season positioning. New York could finish with the third, fourth or fifth seed in the MLS Eastern Conference depending on if they beat Sporting Kansas City, and the outcome of the Philadelphia Union-Columbus Crew match. Both games will be played Sunday.
Wednesday's match was contested in a driving rainstorm. Neither the Impact nor the Red Bulls generated much in the way of scoring chances in the opening 45 minutes thanks to the sub-par conditions.
"There were a couple miscommunications with the weather," said Mallace.
McInerney nearly gave Montreal a 1-0 lead in the 35th minute, but his shot from the box sailed over the New York goal. Five minutes later, Bush snuffed out New York's best scoring opportunity of the first half as he dove onto Lloyd Sam's pass with Eric Stevenson bearing down.
"We really forced the ball," Impact coach Frank Klopas said. "Our ball movement was a little slow in the first half."
The second half started in much the same fashion as the first, when Mallace's header in the 64th minute was wide of the net. The game remained deadlocked at 0-0 until McInerney's goal in the 70th minute. McInerney tapped Andres Romero's goal-mouth feed past Meara. Issey Nakajima-Farran appeared to push the advantage to 2-0 five minutes later, but the goal was disallowed.
"I thought I scored," Nakajima-Farran said.
The non-goal came back to haunt the Impact when Lade equalized in the 84th minute.
"You always feel disappointed with a late goal," Klopas said, who spent much of his news conference stressing positives and the franchise's future. "We're still feeling good as a group. The team is playing [well] right now.
"The team is better."