After goalless 90 minutes and three red cards, the Montreal Impact have exited the MLS Cup Playoffs unceremoniously. At one point this summer, they looked like serious contenders for the Supporters' Shield. Once teams figured out that they only know one way to score, they went into a huge slump and backed into the playoffs. The Houston Dynamo ended their season on Thursday with an emphatic 3-0 win.
It was a terrible performance by Montreal in every way imaginable.
Five questions answered
Before each game in the MLS Cup Playoffs, we ask five questions. Here's how we thought the game answered them.
1. Does Dominic Kinnear have any magic left?
I'm not entirely sure we can answer that question until after the New York tie, but yes, it appears so.
2. Can Montreal find their early season form?
3. Will the Impact defense hold up without Alessandro Nesta?
4. Is it Andrew Wenger's time to shine?
He had a poor first half and an okay second half. He wasn't great, but then again, no one on the Impact was. Since the seven players behind him never gave him much of a chance to affect the game, it's tough to pick on him.
5. Can Montreal match Houston's physicality?
Legally? No. In legal challenges, they got their asses kicked. In a fight? Sure!
What didn't we expect?
A complete non-contest - Montreal were competitive for around 20 minutes, maybe 25. They created a couple of solid chances right after Will Bruin's 16th minute goal, but had almost nothing to offer after that and started to play dirty once they got frustrated. A tough, cagey 1-0 Houston win would have been par for the course, but Montreal never looking like they belonged in this game was surprising.
The big takeaway
Will Bruin is back - The Dynamo have done a decent job of creating chances this season and Bruin has gotten into decent positions, but his finishing has been woeful. Given his spectacular college career, his solid rookie season and his very good 12-goal sophomore campaign, most expected a huge year from Bruin. Instead, he took a big step backwards, but he looked like the best version of 2012 Will Bruin on Thursday night, scoring twice. If he's in top form, the Dynamo can beat anyone.
Man of the match
Ricardo Clark - I know, it sounds like I'm thinking too hard picking someone other than the guy who scored twice. But the first goal, the one that allowed Houston to dominate as a hopeless-looking Montreal side chased the game, was set up by Clark's gorgeous backheel. For the rest of the game, he ran the show in midfield. His energy caused Montreal turnovers and his passing -- he was the most accurate passer on either team -- helped them keep the ball and frustrate the Impact. Bruin was excellent, but Clark impacted the game in every phase of play for 90 minutes.
The Dynamo have to play the Supporters' Shield winners, the New York Red Bulls. This season, the Red Bulls have absolutely dominated the Dynamo. It's tough to pick against Dominic Kinnear in the playoffs, but he hasn't beaten Mike Petke. At the moment, Petke doesn't look the part of a young and inexperienced coach at all. Meanwhile, the Impact have to go back to the drawing board somewhat. They have some nice pieces, but retirement or unproductive seasons could be looming for a lot of their stars.