New York City FC and the Montreal Impact each took a step closer to clinching an Eastern Conference playoff spot on Saturday night when the teams battled to a 1-1 tie at Stade Saputo in Montreal.
Third-place NYCFC remained 10 points ahead of the sixth-place Impact with just four games remaining. Montreal increased its lead for the final playoff spot to five points over idle D.C. United but still must play D.C., which has a game in hand, next Saturday afternoon in Washington.
Sean Johnson had three saves for New York City FC, which has won just one time (1-4-4) in its past nine games.
Evan Bush had four saves and Micheal Azira scored a goal for Montreal, which is 2-0-1 in its last three contests.
New York City jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute thanks an own goal by Montreal defender Rudy Camacho. NYCFC defender Ben Sweat fired a crossing pass from near the left sideline for Jo Inge Berget charging near the left corner of the 6-yard box. However, the ball went under Berget's right leg and hit the legs of a sliding Camacho, who redirected the ball past Bush and into the net.
Montreal tied it 10 minutes later thanks to a brilliant back-heel pass from Ignacio Piatti, who hit Azira racing in at the top right corner of the 18-yard box. Azira then rifled a left-footed shot past Johnson and into the left corner of the goal.
It was the first goal of the season for the Ugandan midfielder, who was acquired in a trade from the Colorado Rapids on Aug. 8. It was also a team-best 13th assist of the season for Piatti.
Both goalies came up with big saves just before intermission to keep the score tied. Johnson knocked a bouncing header by defender Rod Fanni over the goal in the 44th minute, and Bush denied David Villa a minute into stoppage time.
Bush stopped Costa Rican midfielder Ronald Matarrita twice early in the second half with a pair of diving saves on shots from the top of the box. Johnson also came up big in the 83rd minute when he stopped Alejandro Silva's shot in the middle of the box with a shoulder save.