The Montreal Impact are perfect no more.
Two-time reigning Eastern Conference champion Sporting Kansas City served notice that it wasn’t prepared to give up that crown without a fight Saturday with a 2-0 win at Sporting Park.
Behind an early goal from Designated Player Claudio Bieler and a late goal from Graham Zusi, Sporting KC sent Montreal, 4-1-0, to its first loss of the season.
“Outstanding performance today,” goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen said. “It was so attractive. It was so sexy to watch that I was so proud down there. That’s the best soccer I’ve seen since I’ve been here and the best soccer we’ve played since I came here.”
After playing back-to-back scoreless draws against defensive-minded opponents, Sporting KC, 2-1-2, welcomed an Impact side that was intent on going toe-to-toe with the Eastern Conference’s top power broker.
Big mistake — much to the delight of the 18,609 in attendance, the club’s 18th straight sellout.
Sporting KC jumped in front in the fifth minute when Montreal defensive midfielder Patrice Bernier, who has been terrific with three assists in the first four games, played a dreadful roller through the midfield.
Bernier was trying to connect with a wide-open Hassoun Camara on the right flank, but Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic intercepted the pass halfway to its destination and quickly passed ahead to midfielder Benny Feilhaber.
Feilhaber, who was acquired in a December trade with the New England Revolution, surveyed several options while continuing forward before picking out forward Claudio Bieler.
Brought in as a Designated Player to punch up Sporting KC’s attack, Bieler lived up to his reputation as a clinical finisher with a gentle touch around Montreal centerback Matteo Ferrari and a crisp blast past Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins at the far post.
“Claudio was wide open,” Feilhaber said. “One thing I wanted to do this game was drive at the defense. When I picked up that ball, I had no other thing in my mind than to just go at them and see what opened up. Claudio made a great run off the centerback and it was an easy choice to give him the ball.”
The fifth-minute goal was the second-fastest in Sporting Park history during an MLS match. Forward Kei Kamara, who is on loan at Norwich City, has the fastest — a fourth-minute goal last August against the New York Red Bulls.
Sporting KC nearly made it 2-0 in the 11th minute after forward C.J. Sapong won a free kick 45 yards from goal.
Defender Aurelien Collin nodded Zusi’s lofted restart past Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins, but Collin and defender Matt Besler were never in an on-side position and the goal didn’t count.
Still, Sporting KC dominated the first half, outshooting Montreal 10-1 in the first half. The Impact’s lone first-half shot — a soft header well wide and high of goal by defender Karl Ouimette — came in the third minute of stoppage time before intermission.
“From the opening whistle to the final whistle, we were dominant,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “We had a very specific way we wanted to play the game and we executed it about perfect.”
Montreal’s first real goal-scoring threat came in the 60th minute when forward Marco Di Vaio tried a left-footed volley from the top of Sporting KC’s penalty box, but Nielsen punched the ball to safety.
Sporting KC didn’t relent in the second half broke through again in the 80th minute.
Feilhaber corralled another loose pass by the Impact at midfield then threaded a ball forward through three defenders for Graham Zusi, who cut in front of Ouimette, withstood contact and then chipped a shot behind a sliding Perkins.
Schallibaum was ejected in the aftermath of going down 2-0.
Montreal actually had a slight edge in possession, but only managed one shot on goal and was outshot 21-6.
“The few times when they started to break the line a little bit, we made great recovery runs and our back line did a really good job of absorbing pressure,” Vermes said. “Then, they really didn’t have anywhere to play, because they were very narrow on the field.”