MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact insist they won't throw in the towel even if a crushing loss at home to an expansion team dealt a body blow to their MLS playoff hopes.
An 89th minute goal by substitute Abu Danladi handed Minnesota a 3-2 victory in a game Montreal led twice on Saturday night.
It was a fourth straight defeat — three of them at home — and left the Impact five points out of a playoff spot with six games left in the regular season. And things will only get tougher, with games Wednesday night at first-place Toronto and next Saturday before what could be a massive crowd in Atlanta's new stadium.
"There are six games left, it's still possible," said captain Patrice Bernier, who scored his first regular-season goal since 2013 to give the Impact an early lead. "We're going into Toronto. It's tough, but it's Toronto, so we have to show up.
"I'm an optimist. This one has a sour feeling. It was there for the taking and we didn't take it."
All was in Montreal's favour against a team that had won only once away from home this season. Minnesota (8-15-5) is one of the league's weakest sides and they were playing a second game in four days after a 3-0 defeat Wednesday in Vancouver.
But defensive lapses, and evident mental fragility, saw the Impact (10-12-6) waste two one-goal leads in front of a full house of 20,801 at Saputo Stadium.
After Bernier's ninth-minute goal, Montreal was awarded a spot kick when video review showed Minnesota's Jerome Thiesson blocked a Daniel Lovitz cross with is arm.
But Ignacio Piatti's shot was stopped by Bobby Shuttleworth.
Eight minutes later, the Loons were given a penalty kick when a pass hit Victor Carbrera's hand and Kevin Molino made no mistake to tie the game in the 21st.
The Impact charged out again in the second half and looked to have taken control when Blerim Dzemaili drilled in a headed pass from Michael Salazar in the 55th. But a Molino free kick was bandied back and forth in front of the Montreal goal before Christain Ramirez nodded it home in the 68th.
With the Impact pushing for the win, Minnesota played for counterattacks, and Danladi stepped around Laurent Ciman and fired in the game-winner.
"It changed when we missed the penalty," said goalkeeper Evan Bush. "For some reason the life got sucked out of us.
"I don't know if we felt bad for ourselves, but to me that's when I felt it changed. I think we get frustrated too easily when things don't go perfect."
There was some pushing and shoving at the final whistle, mostly involving Cabrera, as what may have been Montreal's best chance to stay in the playoff race expired.
"It's disappointing, it's a match we couldn't afford to lose," said coach Mauro Biello. "We scored and after that it's like we forgot how to defend. It's like there was a highway up the middle.
"We had chances, but we're not making plays in the key moments. That's what's hurting us."
It was in September last season that Biello's club caught fire with a late playoff push. They ended up reaching the Eastern Conference final, where they lost in overtime to Toronto.
It would take a minor miracle for that to happen again. They have two home games left, but their 8-6-1 mark at home is hardly encouraging.
"You approach the final six games the same way you approach the first 28," said Bush. "You can't give up.
"You have to have pride in what you do every day."