Gerba scores as MLS-bound Impact downs Red Bulls in friendly

Associated Press

5/11/2011 10:57:45 PM

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Impact gave the Saputo Stadium crowd of 12,568 what it wanted -- a 1-0 victory and a look at the New York Red Bulls star players.

Ali Gerba scored in the 37th minute as the Impact won the friendly match against the mostly listless-looking Red Bulls in a friendly match against one of Major League Soccer's marquee clubs on Wednesday night. The Impact are playing a final North American Soccer League season before joining MLS in 2012.

"We wanted to show people we can play and compete with the best," said Gerba after the loosely played match in which both clubs went on attack.

Former French international striker Thierry Henry, Mexican star defender Rafael Marquez and former Toronto FC midfielder Dwayne De Rosario were all in the starting lineup for New York, but all three came out as, by agreement between the clubs, both clubs substituted most of their players at the intermission.

The crowd seemed to like it, but as tests go, the Impact probably had a better look at the MLS in its two recent Nutrilite Canadian Championship matches against Vancouver -- losing the first at home 1-0, then tying the Whitecaps but losing the two-game aggregate series on an overtime goal in Vancouver.

Those games had intensity, but Henry said the team had little energy left for a friendly after an emotional 1-1 draw Saturday against the Galaxy in Los Angeles.

"To have a good performance was very difficult," the former French International striker said. "We came here without a practice since our last game.

"The last time I touched a ball was in the last minute in L.A. That's not an excuse, but you have to prepare for a match. And Montreal played good. It was a super play on their goal. They're a good team."

Montreal was certainly the more energetic side as the Red Bulls looked to rely on their clearly superior talent.

Henry, the former Arsenal, Barcelona and Monaco star, headed one into the net in the 35th minute after a corner kick from Marquez in an otherwise quiet stint on the field but it was ruled offside.

Only two minutes later, Impact defender Philippe Billy sent a long ball up the middle that Gerba flicked with his head past a helpless Greg Sutton to give the home side the lead.

"I just anticipated the cross and put it in," said Gerba. "Sometimes it's easier than it looks."

John Rooney, the younger brother of Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, had two chances for New York in the second half, drilling one shot just over the bar and another just wide.

There were some nasty moments when Gerba tripped Marquez and the Mexican responded with a push in the 40th. A minute later, Montreal defender Kevin Hatchi saw the yellow card after what looked like an open ice bodycheck in hockey on Dane Richards.

Midfielder Carl Robinson was also shaken up and was replaced by Tyler Lassiter.

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said Robinson re-injured a knee, while Richards hurt his ribs, but there was no word on the extent of the injuries.

Sutton, who played six seasons for the Impact, made only his second start of the season in goal for the Red Bulls. The Hamilton native recently returned from a concussion and played the full 90 minutes.

"They've got great fan support here and I think they'll be a great team in MLS, especially when they expand the stadium," said Sutton.

Saputo Stadium is to grow to from 13,000 to about 20,000 seats for next season.

The Red Bulls lead the MLS Eastern Conference with a 4-1-3 record.

De Rosario was one of the Red Bulls most active players in the first half. He was the centre of some confusion when Backe said he would not play for Canada in the Gold Cup, but the player and the Canadian team have since assured he will be there.

Backe said his statement was a misunderstanding. He said he had asked the team only to sign players who would not play in the Gold Cup so the club wouldn't lose them in mid-season to their national teams and he thought that was the case with De Rosario.

"But that was not sorted out before the trade (with TFC), so I was wrong," Backe said.

Outside the stadium, a few protesters passed out anti-Red Bull leaflets, decrying the commercialization of the sport. Protests were held when the drink company bought clubs in Austria and Germany.