Matteo Mancosu scored in the second half as the Montreal Impact downed the New York Red Bulls 1-0 in the opening match of their MLS Eastern Conference semifinal before 15,027 at Saputo Stadium on Sunday.
Montreal takes a one-goal lead into the second leg of the two-game, aggregate goals series next Sunday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., where they have never won in seven visits.
New York will be without forward Omer Damari, a substitute who was sent off in injury time after a hard slide into Calum Mallace.
The Impact were playing on only three days rest after their 4-2 victory at D.C. United in the knockout round of playoffs on Thursday, when Mancosu scored twice. They were facing the top team in the Eastern Conference, led by MLS goals-leader Bradley Wright Phillips.
The first half looked like a diving meet at times as players mugged for foul calls from referee Robert Sibiga. Former Impact midfielder Felipe Martins got a talking to only minutes into the game.
But each side also had a first-class scoring chance.
Wright-Phillips was in alone early but saw Evan Bush make a vertical leap to grab his chip shot.
Just before the intermission, Ignacio Piatti won a ball on the left flank and saw his high cross headed just wide by Mancosu.
Felipe won a free kick just outside the Montreal 18-yard box after going down on a light touch from Hassoun Camara six minutes into the second half and put the ball off the crossbar.
In the 61st, the Impact’s counter-attacking game clicked in as Marco Donadel lofted a high pass over the Red Bulls defence and, without breaking stride, former Bologna striker Mancosu drilled a high shot under the crossbar for his third of the post-season.
Canadian national women’s soccer team player Josie Belanger rang the bell in the east side stands as the Impact scored. Each game a different public figure is chosen as bellringer.
The Red Bulls missed a glittering chance in added time as Bush made a diving save and Wright-Phillips hit the rebound just wide.
The Impact were without striker Didier Drogba for a third straight game.
The Ivorian has been recovering from a sore back. Coach Mauro Biello had hoped to have him available off the bench.