Ali Gerba reached double digits in goals for the season with a two-goal effort to send the Austin Aztex home from the pouring rain at Saputo Stadium in Montreal with a 2-0 deficit against the defending champion Impact on Wednesday night.
In the 38th minute, Eddie Johnson’s rough tackle earned a yellow card that led to a free kick taken by Philippe Billy that was bent in the box that found the head of Gerba. Gerba needed no more help to lead the Impact to a 2-0 stronghold in the home-and-home aggregate playoff series.
While Gerba scored the first chance with a rare first-half touch, the forward became a terror to the Aztex defense in the second half, putting a scare into the Aztex time and time again. He finally capitalized on the attack for the second time when he chased down a long ball and drilled it to the back of the net to seal the Aztex fate.
Montreal kicked off the action in the second minute of the match with a shot that was saved by Miguel Gallardo – one of his three saves in the first half. Minutes later, David Testo’s yellow card gave Austin a free kick that was nearly put in off the head of Max Griffin. In spite of the effort by Matt Jordan to save Griffin’s header, the play was called offside to negate the try.
Austin had few other chances in the latter part of the first half other than a volley by Johnson, but that was when Montreal really turned up the heat. The Impact came closest to getting on the board with a shot by Eduardo Sebrango that seemed destined for the back of the net, if not for a miraculous sprawling save by Gallardo to punch it wide. Gerba then sent the Impact into the half up by a goal.
Montreal picked up in the second half where it left off, playing much of the 45 minutes on Austin’s side of the pitch with multiple scoring opportunities that were barely missed. Austin finished the match with just six shots, but closed out with numerous opportunities in the hustle of the closing minutes. Unfortunately for the Aztex, they were unable to capitalize and now must either win the second leg by three goals, or by two and win the series in penalty kicks.
The Aztex and Impact second leg kicks off at 7:30 p.m. CST on Saturday at House Park in Austin.