MONTREAL â€” When Impact substitute Anthony Jackson-Hamel scored the stoppage-time winner, a weight was lifted off the team’s shoulders.
Montreal waited until the dying seconds to notch its first win of the MLS season as the Impact defeated 10-man Atlanta United FC 2-1 in their Saputo Stadium home opener on Saturday afternoon.
Jackson-Hamel scored in injury time, one of the last kicks of the ball, when he deflected Hernan Bernardello’s shot from distance off the post past the outstretched Alec Kann in Atlanta’s net.
“An important goal and an important victory,” said Jackson-Hamel, who came into the game in the 83rd minute. “We really needed this victory at home.
“Now this is something we can build on. We have to string some wins together now.”
Jackson-Hamel had previously only played one minute this season when he came into the game against New York City FC as a late substitute.
“I wanted to create an opportunity,” added the 23-year-old Jackson-Hamel. “If I’m coming into the game, it’s to score goals. I did what I had to do.”
Montreal improved to 1-2-3 after a winless three-game road trip.
“We’re feeling a little lighter now,” said captain Patrice Bernier. “It doesn’t matter how this win came about, what matters is that we won. This is huge for our confidence. It’s a long season and the wins will come. Our spirits and morale are high.”
Atlanta (2-2-2) went down a man in first-half stoppage time when defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez shoved Matteo Mancosu in the back in the penalty box. Mancosu went down easily and Pirez was shown a straight red card.
The sending off was Atlanta’s third in six games this season.
“Very unfortunate calls, especially the last two games,” said Atlanta coach Gerardo Martino. “The referees can get together in their little groups and see the mistakes they made.”
Ignacio Piatti, in his first game back from injury, converted from the spot for his second goal of the campaign. Kann guessed right, but Piatti’s hard and low shot when off his fingertips and in.
“That was definitely a penalty,” said Piatti, who has two goals this season. “What a great way to end the first half. The important thing is that we won, especially at home. It doesn’t matter if we played well or not. It’s important to get all three points at home.”
Kenwyne Jones scored in the 40th minute for expansion-side Atlanta United after the visitors capitalized on a weak clearance by Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush.
The quick turnover meant Jones was wide open on the edge of the box, with centre backs Laurent Ciman and Hassoun Camara having already pushed up the field. The six-foot-two Jones easily curled the ball into the corner of the net for his first of the season.
“Special moment to score your first goal, it meant a lot,” said Jones. “But it’s bittersweet because we didn’t get the result we were looking for.
“I’m happy with the way we still fought to the end. We showed a lot of grit. It’s character building.”
Montreal conceded the first goal of the game for the fifth time in six matches this season. Mauro Biello’s men have yet to keep a clean sheet this year.
Piatti was back in the lineup after missing two games with a hip/groin injury. The Argentine made his presence felt within minutes, making Atlanta players miss as he weaved his way around them. The 32-year-old finished the game with five shots, including two on target.
“Piatti is one of the best players in the league,” said Biello. “Every time he had the ball, there was something happening, something dangerous.”
Montreal failed to capitalize on its man advantage for most of the second half, with Atlanta doing a good job of shutting the Impact down until Jackson-Hamel’s late winner.
Impact defender Victor Cabrera left the game in the 18th minute with an ankle injury after a botched tackle from behind.
Notes: Former Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo – and current Alouettes quarterback coach – was in attendance.
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press