MONTREAL — Coach Mauro Biello spoke of mental fragility on the Montreal Impact in recent weeks, but that only seems to apply when they are at home.
Given a chance to widen the gap with one of the teams chasing them for a playoff spot, the Impact gave up a goal in the opening minute and fell 3-1 to the New England Revolution before a full house of 20,801 at the suddenly very un-fortresslike Saputo Stadium on Saturday night.
Didier Drogba scored the lone goal on a penalty for Montreal (9-9-4), which has only one win in seven games. Perhaps more alarmingly, the Impact are 0-3-1 and have conceded 11 goals in their last four home games. In the midst of that, while away from home, they had a rousing 1-0 win in Toronto and a draw in Washington, D.C.
"It's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy at the moment," said goalkeeper Evan Bush. "We have had bad things happen to us at home and, for some reason, we have that mentality that when the ball gets into dangerous areas it's going to happen again.
"We're not strong enough mentally right now. For some reason, it's different on the road. But at this moment, we're probably going to have to get results on the road."
The Impact have five games left in the regular season to find answers. They go on the road for their next match to play the New York Red Bulls.
Drogba says it's up to the players to pull themselves out of their slump.
"There's two ways to see it: we can give up and play our home games away — I don't know if that's possible — or we decide to change things and give a bit more, push more and be more focused and play more as a team," said Drogba. "Team spirit is good, but I'm talking about tactically, we have to do more of what the manager wants us to do and, that way, support him as well."
The Revolution (9-12-9), who lost to Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup final this week, posted a third straight win in Major League Soccer play with only their second away victory of the season. New England moved only two points behind fifth-place Montreal in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Impact worked this week on defending in the 18-yard box, but it went for not as their nemesis Kai Kamara scored only 25 seconds into the match, while Kelyn Rowe added two to put the game away.
The game had just begun when fullback Ambroise Oyongo wiped out on the wet grass while attempting a slide tackle, leaving space for Juan Agudelo to slip a pass to Rowe, who chipped the ball into the middle for Kamara to redirect inside the left post for his 10th of the season.
Kamara found another gap in the 27th minute and fed Rowe outside the 18-yard box for a long shot that went in off the far post.
Kamara, who has five goals in three games against the Impact this season, also scored a brace to eliminate Montreal from the Eastern Conference semifinal last fall when he played for Columbus.
Montreal was awarded a disputable penalty in the 51st when Harry Shipp's shot hit London Woodbury's arm, although the New England defender looked to be just outside the penalty area on contact. Drogba made no mistake on the shot for his 10th of the campaign.
After Ignacio Piatti wasted a glorious chance to tie it when he fired a Drogba feed over the bar, Juan Aguldelo headed a ball off the post and Montreal midfielder Hernan Bernardello saved a goal by getting his foot on the rebound on a New England counterattack. A moment later, Rowe was left alone at the far side of the area to redirect a cross inside the near post to restore the two-goal lead.
The Impact had some late chances, including a diving header from Drogba that went just wide and moved the Ivorian star to slam the ball against an advertising board in frustration.
"We had 26 shots — that's a good stat — but when you're that close, you have to put the ball away," Biello said of the missed chances. "Right now, you see a bit of fragility in the team; to give up a goal that quick and that easy against a team that's right behind us.
"They were able to score the second one and then there's a mountain ahead of you. It's more psychological than anything else. We'll continue to work hard and find solutions. We've got five games left to make the playoffs."