MONTREAL – Matteo Mancosu is making an excellent first impression with the Montreal Impact.
The Italian striker acquired on loan from Bologna FC on July 7 came through in his first Major League Soccer start with the lone goal in the Impact’s 1-0 victory over the struggling Houston Dynamo on Saturday night.
Going into the game, the 31-year-old Mancosu had scored a goal and added an assist in three appearances off the bench in a total of only 52 minutes.
Given the start with star striker Didier Drogba sitting out a one-game suspension, it took him 76 minutes to score against a hard-working Dynamo side that probably deserved at least one goal themselves with the chances they generated.
Mancosu pulled down a long ball over the top and calmly slid it into the left side of the goal to the delight of the sellout crowd of 20,801 at Saputo Stadium.
“I think the other players understood very well the way I play,” Mancosu said through a translator. “We had some chances in the first half but unfortunately it didn’t work out, but in the second, I got a good ball and I was able to score.
“I just turned and shot. I’m really happy we were able to get the three points.”
Teammate Hassoun Camara now wonders what it will be like to have both Mancosu and Drogba in the lineup. They play different styles, with Drogba more of a physical presence and Mancosu relying on clever movement.
“He has a sense for the goal,” said Camara. “He knows how to deal in the box.
“We’re happy to have this kind of player because he and Didier can be very good.”
Coach Mauro Biello, whose team visits the New York Red Bulls next Saturday, said “that could be a good option.”
The Impact (8-5-9) posted a second straight home win for the first time since April. They are 4-1-5 in their last 10 games. They also posted their first clean sheet in eight games since June 18 at Columbus, which pleased defender Camara almost as much as the win.
“Even two weeks ago when we won (5-1) and allowed a goal I wasn’t that happy because we want to show that we don’t give anything,” said Camara.
Houston (4-10-8), which sits 10th and last in the Western Conference, is winless in five games and has scored only one goal in that span.
Houston had the early chances, but Will Bruin and Andrew Wenger put shots from inside the 18-yard box straight into goalkeeper Evan Bush while Boniek Garcia slipped a shot just wide in the 21st minute.
Mancosu was in alone in the 11th but was stopped by Joe Willis. Donadel missed on a shot from distance and Camara volleyed a clever cross from Ambroise Oyongo over the bar.
Bruin had another chance early in the second half when he beat a defender and went in on the right side but was stopped by Bush. The Montreal keeper also made an alert save on David Frost’s header from a free kick from Cristian Maidana in the 67th. And Abdoulie Mansally blasted a shot in the 85th on the run up the left side that Bush leapt to palm over the bar.
“They are a difficult team to beat,” said Camara. “They’re very organized. We knew we had to be patient to score and that’s what happened.”
As much Drogba is Montreal’s most dangerous attacker, the team is 5-2-2 without him in the lineup this season as others pick up their play when he sits out.
Houston has Impact ties, starting with general manager Matt Jordan, a former Montreal goalkeeper, as well as Wenger and midfielders Collen Warner and Eric Alexander.
Impact forward Dominic Oduro was honoured before the match for his 300th MLS game, which was last week in Washington.