MONTREAL — It's a sign of how hapless the Montreal Impact have become that they weren't able to even earn a draw after the Los Angeles Galaxy had superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off.
Instead, as Montreal attackers flailed away to no affect, Ola Kamara scored in the 75th minute on a counterattack to give the 10-man Galaxy a 1-0 victory on Monday afternoon.
The Galaxy (4-6-1) ended a four-game losing run. Montreal (3-9-0) has now lost three in a row, all by shutout, with the last two coming at home.
"It doesn't seem like we want to win," said dejected Impact striker Anthony Jackson-Hamel, a second half substitute. "We have to be more like warriors on the field.
"One man up. You have to win that game."
Everything was set up for the Impact to be at their best.
It had been nine days since their 2-0 home loss to Philadelphia, which left plenty of time to rest. A capacity crowd of 20,801 was on hand on a sunny day to celebrate the club's 25th anniversary, so spirits should have been high.
And then, 41 minutes in, fullback Michael Petrasso backed into Ibrahimovic and stepped on his foot just inside the 18-yard box, well away from the ball. The Swedish star reacted by slapping Petrasso in the side of the head.
After consulting VAR, referee Ismail Elfath showed the red card to Ibrahimovic and the yellow to Petrasso, which put Montreal up a man the rest of the game even if both sides found the decision puzzling.
"If they're saying the step was accidental, then why did they give (Petrasso) a yellow card?" said Galaxy coach Siegfried Schmid, adding that Ibrahimovic hurt a big toe on the play. "It makes no sense.
"If you give him a yellow card it means he stepped on him on purpose, and if he stepped on him on purpose, it's got to be a penalty kick and Zlatan gets a red card for his reaction to it. I'm a little confused about the sequential order."
Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush was equally confused.
"When I saw the replay I don't know why Mike even got a yellow card," he said. "It made no sense.
"If you give a guy a yellow card for stepping on his foot, you're basically saying he intended to do that, which should be a red card. He shouldn't have got anything."
As for slapping an opponent, Bush sees it as a byproduct of Major League Soccer clubs bringing in star players at the end of their careers, as many teams have done since David Beckham joined the Galaxy in 2007. Montreal had one of their own in Didier Drogba in 2015-16.
"You get that from guys like that when they come into this league with a certain aura and ego around them, where they think that they're above the rules at times," said Bush. "Maybe if he was still playing in Manchester and an opponent stepped on his foot he would have reacted differently.
"Here, guys come into this league with the pedigree he has and they think they should be treated differently. There were moments when Didier was the same on the field, but Didier had a little better demeanour in those situations."
Even up a man, it appears the Impact do not have enough guns on attack this season. When opponents double and triple-team star midfielder Ignacio Piatti, who has either scored or assisted on 11 of their 14 goals, no one else has picked up the slack.
Coach Remi Garde said his attacking players tried hard, but needed to be meaner, hungrier and more aggressive around the goal. Montreal had some chances, including back-to-back shots in the 55th minute by Alejandro Silva and Raheem Edwards that were blocked by David Bingham.
In the 75th minute, substitute Emmanuel Boateng headed a ball forward that Kamara took on the run. He beat Marco Donadel and Jukka Raitala with a cut into the middle and scored his team-leading fifth goal on a low shot from inside the penalty area.
Bush called it a game the Impact should have won.
"In many ways, the team we played, I think were looking for an excuse not to win, and when they got the red card, the excuse was there for them," said Bush. "We just didn't punish them.
"I don't know if it's because the desire wasn't there. We just lacked quality attacking."
Rod Fanni did not dress, leaving an injury-riddled Montreal defence without a natural centreback in the starting 11, so they used midfielder Donadel, who returned from injury for his first start of the season.
The Impact celebrated the three teams that won championships before they joined MLS — in 1994, 2004 and 2009. Players from their inaugural 1993 campaign Rudy Doliscat and Patrice Ferri, as well as coach Valerio Gazzola, and 2009 coach Marc Dos Santos were on hand.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press