Experience triumphed over youth in the most decisive fashion possible, as the Montreal Impacts's Marco Di Vaio took an inexperienced Philadelphia Union backline to school during a critical first half of football at a rain sodden Saputo Stadium.
The Italian, now 37-years-old, is not going to win too many foot races in the Major League Soccer, but he still managed to continually outfox Amobi Okugo and Sheanon Williams, both of whom were two years old when Di Vaio first began his professional soccer career.
Unbeaten in six home games this season, the Impact quickly showed the visitors how things were going to be when Justin Mapp and Andrew Wenger combined well down the right. The resulting cross was whipped across the box and met perfectly by an onrushing Di Vaio, who finished with a neat volley.
The game was barely two minutes old.
It wouldn't take long, though, for Jack McInerney, Philadelphia's own talismanic striker, to get on the score sheet. When Montreal failed to deal with a cross into the box, Michael Farfan did well to fire the ball back in, where a lurking McInerney was there to side-foot it home.
With the wind in their sails, the Union pressed on and looked to score the game's third goal as Montreal fans were still finding their seats. Farfan, having set up a goal, almost got one of his own when he latched onto another sloppy Montreal clearance, but saw his ambitious long-range effort drift wide.
The Union's momentum was not going to last long and having gradually seized control of the midfield, Montreal retook the lead when Mapp spotted Di Viao drifting away from Williams. A delicately clipped ball later and Montreal's leading scoring was alone in the box and simply waited for Zac MacMath to commit himself before coolly lifting the ball over the keeper's head and into an empty goal.
A seemingly inevitable hat trick was completed with only 31 minutes of the game played, when Andres Romero scampered down Montreal's left flank, dragging most of the Union's backline towards him in the process. Di Vaio was, of course, unmarked, having made a late run to the far post, where he promptly volleyed Romero's cross into the roof of the net.
Remarkably, with eight minutes still to go until half-time, Di Vaio should have helped himself to a fourth goal. Once again, smart off-the-ball movement left Williams and Okugo in no-man's land and suddenly the Italian was alone on the edge of the Union penalty box. MacMath, who came off his line quickly, did enough to unsettle the Montreal hitman, who sent Felipe's excellent through ball over the bar, but the Union were lucky to go in at the break only down by two.
What John Hackworth said at the break to his defenders probably wasn't suitable for a young audience but nothing seemed to have changed when the Union emerged for the second half. Philadelphia's midfield was still being smothered in the centre of the pitch while Wenger, who the Impact chose with the first overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, was running riot with the ball at his feet.
Yet somehow, the Union held their nerve and in the 67th minute, Antoine Hoppenot, having just come on for a clearly exhausted Kleberson, brought his team some hope when his miscued cross swerved over the head of a stranded Troy Perkins and into the Montreal net.
Barely three minutes later and with the Union in possession in Montreal's half, Felipe was lucky to simply get a yellow card for a studs-up foul that was closer to Farfan's chest than the Union player's foot. The freekick that followed, forty yards out and dead centre, should be seen as a wasted opportunity given that it was a Union head that connected with the dead ball, only to send it narrowly wide of the Montreal goal.
That would be it for the Union as defensive mistakes once again cost them. With 74 minutes played, Montreal forced a corner after Okugo made an excellent tackle at the feet of Wenger, who seemed certain to score from six yards out. Yet, having dodged one bullet, a lazy piece of marking by Conor Casey allowed Wenger to finally get his goal with an open header from close range. It was another simple goal from the home side and perfectly summed up Philadelphia's ineptitude.
There was still time for another goal from each side. With eighty-four minutes played and in probably the Union's best moment of the game, Sebastien Le Toux picked up the ball on the edge of the Montreal area, skipped to the right of Mapp and unleashed a rasping left-footed effort into the bottom corner.
The goal made it 4-3 to Montreal but ultimately the Union had no way of getting back into the game despite having six minutes of regular time available to them. Hackworth, having made all his substitutions, could only watch as a tired, disjointed Union side wearily tried to find some momentum in the rain. MacMath, barely a minute after clearing a Jeff Parke back pass off his own line, was beaten for the fifth time in the game when the Union overcommitted themselves and Blake Smith scored on the counter attack.
It was a depressing afternoon for Philadelphia in equally miserable conditions. Their midfield was toothless for most of the afternoon whilst many of its young players struggled against Montreal's veterans. McInerney, after his early goal, was almost nonexistent as Allessandro Nesta, who has marked some of the best strikers in world football during his time with Lazio and AC Milan, quietly took the youngster out the game. Williams and Okugo were also made to look equally helpless at times by DiVaio's nous and could not wait to get off the pitch.
From a Union perspective, no-one will be pleased with their efforts. Indeed, for the sake of team moral and Hackworth's job security, games like this can't happen too often in the future.