MONTREAL — Two red cards could not stop CF Montreal from ending their three-game losing streak with a 2-2 draw against Atlanta United on Wednesday.
It was the first game with general admission at Stade Saputo since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mason Toye and Rudy Camacho scored for Montreal, while Josef Martinez and Marcelino Moreno netted goals for Atlanta.
"These are games that you look back at and think ‘should’ve taken three points,’" said Toye. "We took something from the game, so that’s a positive, but now all eyes are on the next game."
The first half could only be described as cautious. With both teams mirroring one another with a 3-4-1-2 formation and looking to create chances early by getting in behind defenders, neither side was willing to give an inch.
Montreal had the lion’s share of scoring chances, but the half’s best opportunity belonged to Atlanta’s Moreno at the 10-minute mark. Played in by a little flick from Martinez, Moreno forced and excellent left-footed stop from CF Montreal 'keeper James Pantemis at point-blank range.
Less than a minute later, Ahmed Hamdi went down with an apparent lower-body injury and was replaced by Samuel Piette.
At the 19-minute mark, Aljaz Struna picked up his fifth booking of the season for grabbing Ezequiel Barco’s jersey, meaning he will miss Montreal’s next game against New York Red Bulls.
The rest of the half went by with neither team willing to give up any space as they traded stints of harmless possession. While there was progress made on the flanks due to the teams’ three-back formations, very little came of it.
The second half was a an entirely different story, however. After coming out guns blazing, Montreal opened the scoring in the 53rd minute. Joaquin Torres’ through ball found Toye, who slotted in his seventh goal of the season into the bottom right corner.
In the 63rd minute, a Djordje Mihailovic corner found Camacho who was left inexplicably unmarked and volleyed it into the top corner, doubling Montreal's lead.
However, less than a minute later Atlanta replied when Martinez was given the ball at the top of the box and fired a shot into the bottom right corner, bringing the visitors within one.
"We fell asleep on that pass to Martinez, we weren’t close enough to him," said Piette. "It wasn’t only one person, it was the whole team. (Games like this) leave a bitter taste in your mouth."
At the 73rd, minute, Martinez was played in and taken down by Camacho, leading to a straight red card and penalty converted by Moreno, tying up the game.
Tensions started to flare around the 80th minute mark as Martinez and Montreal’s Victor Wanyama started shoving each other and were both subsequently booked. After a video review, the official recalled both yellow cards, opting instead for both Wanyama and Martinez to be given straight red cards.
"Given that we were down to nine men, leaving here with a point is still a positive," said Montreal coach Wilfried Nancy. "We had control over the game, and it all going sideways in one moment is tough."
Taking advantage of all the space in the 88th minute, a freshly substituted Zachary Brault-Guillard almost won Montreal the game as he sprinted the length of the pitch, only for his shot to hit the crossbar.
Atlanta’s next opponent will be Columbus Crew on Aug. 7 while CF Montreal faces DC United on Aug. 8.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published August 4, 2021.