Kei Kamara scored in extra time to send Columbus to the MLS Eastern Conference final with a 3–1 win over Montreal on Sunday at MAPFRE Stadium. It was Kamara’s second goal of the game, and it ended a tightly-contested match between two of the most in-form teams in the league.
Columbus will meet the New York Red Bulls in a two-leg conference final starting Nov. 22 in Ohio.
After a 2–1 Montreal win in Canada last week, Kamara put Columbus ahead with a goal early on Sunday, which was followed by goals by Montreal (Dily Duka) and Columbus (Ethan Finlay) that both were allowed despite coming off offside buildups. In other words, it wasn’t a good night for officiating at all, but in the end the deserving team won out.
Here are my three thoughts on the game:
Kamara came up big when it counted
Almost all of Kamara’s goals this season have come on first touches, and both his strikes on Sunday were the same. The Sierra Leonean forward has a way of getting into the right space to make an impact, and he did so both early and late as Columbus did what was necessary to put away a brutally difficult challenge from Montreal. But Kamara did need good service from out wide on both goals, and Columbus has been constructed to provide it. This win sets up a mouth-watering matchup with the New York Red Bulls involving the two best teams all season in the MLS East.
The officiating was bad
You can say that often during MLS games, but it was particularly disappointing to see goals by both teams allowed despite coming from offside positions. They didn’t cancel each other out: Duka’s goal was an away goal, and MLS has inexplicably allowed away goals to be the first tiebreaker—making the regular-season matter even less—but it was sort of laughable that the same assistant referee missed offsides on goals by both teams in the end. You’re left wondering what could be done by the PRO referees organization to make things better, but I guess it’s just going to take time for competence to become something we can expect, even in the games that matter most.
Montreal can build off this
Even though Didier Drogba didn’t have a big influence on either of these games, he was fantastic for Montreal ever since his arrival, and the Impact has definite positive vibe going on heading into 2016. One would expect that Mauro Biello would lose the interim tag and become the full-time coach heading into next season, and this is a team that can make a difference going forward. Ignacio Piatti is a player you can also build off of, and the balance seems to be there with a defense anchored by the excellent Laurent Ciman. If Montreal can get a bit younger, there’s no reason this team can’t make noise in MLS for a while now.