The Montreal Impact sit atop the Eastern Conference despite having played the fewest games of any MLS club.
Now they’ll be down their coach and two players as they look to win a fourth straight Saturday night against the host Columbus Crew, who are winless in three consecutive league matches.
Montreal (8-2-2) has four games in hand and a one-point lead on second-place New York in the East after extending its streak with a 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City on June 1.
The win came with a price, though, as coach Marco Schallibaum and defender Alessandro Nesta were ejected and will serve automatic one-game suspensions Saturday.
Nesta pulled down an opposing player by the jersey twice, leading to a penalty kick, and Schallibaum was sent off for arguing with an official and improper conduct in the tunnel following the first half.
“I’m disappointed because I didn’t do anything,” Schallibaum told the team’s official website. “In Europe, you can walk onto the field and talk with the referee. I calmly told him that (Nesta’s foul) was outside the penalty box, that’s it. And it seems you can’t do that. It’s a pity that the people they punish can’t say anything. They (in the league office), I have to accept that and I don’t think it’s fair.”
Midfielder Sanna Nyassi made his third start of the season in the last contest and scored his first goal, but he won’t be available Saturday as he plays for the Gambian national team during World Cup qualifying.
Fellow midfielder Collen Warner made his second start and also scored.
“I’m happy for Collen and for Sanna, who haven’t played a lot of late, but they brought freshness and a win,” Patrice Bernier said. “It shows how deep our group is.”
The Impact hope that depth is an advantage against Columbus (4-5-5), which fell 3-0 to Philadelphia in its last MLS match June 5 and dropped to 0-1-2 in its last three.
It has scored four times in its last six games, getting shut out three times.
“We have to take a lesson from this game,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. “We as a team didn’t step up for each other. That was the biggest thing.”
The Crew now will look to improve on their disappointing 1-2-3 mark at home. Forward Dominic Oduro scored in the 72nd minute after Marco Di Vaio, second in MLS with nine goals, scored for Montreal in the 68th in a 1-all draw April 14.
“Just forget about (the last game) and look forward to our next home game and hope we can make it right,” forward Dominic Oduro said.
Columbus, which hasn’t had defender Chad Marshall (hamstring) for the last five overall games and right back Josh Williams (calf) for the last three, will have a short turnaround after falling 2-1 to Chicago in U.S. Open Cup play Thursday.
The Crew, though, went 2-0-1 against the Impact last season, winning both home meetings.
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