MONTREAL (AP) — Jeisson Vargas scored four minutes before the intermission to lift Montreal to a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC in the Impact’s home opener Saturday.
It was the first MLS goal for 20-year-old Vargas and the first win for new coach Remi Garde, who replaced Mauro Biello in December as coach of the Impact (1-2).
Toronto (0-2) played its first game since a rousing victory in the CONCACAF Champions League over Mexican side Tigres. The travel to Mexico may have sapped some energy from the defending MLS champions, who nonetheless started most of their top players.
Garde seemed to catch everyone off guard by starting a three-man backline with former Marseille defender Rod Fanni making his debut in the middle.
It made for a mostly uneventful first half until Saphir Taider intercepted a ball and sent Ignacio Piatti up the middle. Three Toronto defenders focused on the Impact captain, leaving Vargas open on the right side to take the pass and slice a shot inside the goalpost in the 41st minute for their first lead in three games.
Piatti was inside the Toronto penalty area on two more occasions before the break but Nick Hagglund blocked one dangerous shot and another was also turned away.
Eight minutes into the second half, Piatti sent Taider in alone but Alexander Bono pushed the shot.
Toronto threatened in the 64th when Sebastian Giovinco got the ball to striker Jozy Altidore. He lifted a shot over goalie Evan Bush but saw it bounce just wide. Toronto looked to have tied it in the 84th minute when Altidore’s shot got behind Bush and was rolling slowly to the goal line, but Michael Petrasso swept it away at the last second.
Montreal striker Matteo Mancosu, who missed practice this week for what the team called precautionary reasons, didn’t dress.
Midfielder Victor Vazquez, who has had back trouble, didn’t dress for Toronto. Chris Mavinga (suspected sports hernia) was in the lineup but did not start.