If you only caught the first half of action between the New York Red Bulls and CF Montréal Saturday night, you saw everything you needed to see.

The three-goal game, on a wet and rainy night in New Jersey, was decided in the first 45 minutes at Red Bull Arena. Enhanced by the wet turf, both teams were sloppy in possession and particularly through midfield in the second half. It was a game that started with plenty of intensity, but ultimately one that was decided by the slightest of efficiencies.

“We have to work more on our set pieces to stop [conceding]” Chinonso Offor said post-match. “We didn’t have any speeches or discussions after the game. The coach will surely wait [to cool off] instead of talking hot.”

The hosts struck first in the 23rd minute when CF Montréal couldn’t deal with a ball swung into the six-yard box off a corner kick. After a deflection off CanMNT defender Joel Waterman, the ball fell kindly to RBNY centre-back Andrés Reyes who poked it past Jonathan Sirois.

CFM head coach Hernan Losada was quick to deflect any criticism thrown at Waterman post-match.

“Joel Waterman is a very important player for us,” Losada said. “He scored the goal tonight but everyone can have worse games.”

The first-year CFM gaffer also didn’t appreciate media suggestions that his side weren’t prepared for their opponents and that these last two outings are a far cry from the team that looked like one of the hottest teams in the league prior to Wednesday night in Cincinnati.

“I did not see an apathetic team,” Losada said. “The players gave their all. We lacked energy and we made mistakes that we paid for.”

You know how the old saying goes: set pieces are the great equalizer.

Six minutes after CFM conceded the opening goal, Waterman was on the right end of a ball that he made sure bulged the old onion bag — after getting hit in the ball bag earlier in the half, sending the Canadian international to the turf in the excruciating pain that every male understands — to draw Montréal level.

It was a real back-and-forth first half that saw New York take the lead again as CFM struggled to stay organized defensively.

“Yes, there was space between defence and midfield but it’s often like that against the Red Bulls,” centre-back George Campbell said post-match. “We have to work collectively to find solutions.”

The road has not been kind to CFM, and Saturday night’s performance just didn’t match the level that saw Montréal riffle off six wins in a row, before the midweek loss in Cincinnati. Montréal has now dropped seven of their last eight away. At least they weren’t shut out on Saturday in New Jersey.

“I don’t think there’s any kind of away magic missing or anything. Maybe it’s the crowd at the Saputo Stadium that gives us wings but we have to improve on the road,” Campbell said.

It was just RBNY’s third win of the season, and the second for new head coach Troy Lesesne, who took over from Gerhard Struber after he and the club mutually decided to part ways with the Red Bulls sat at the bottom of the Easter Conference. Lesesne joined the club as an assistant in January of 2022 and continues to win over Red Bulls supporters as the gaffer, standing in the rain without any concern for what it might do to his perfect light-coloured suit.

These two clubs have made a routine of alternating wins with each other; they’ve done so in their last eight meetings. CFM beat the Red Bulls 2-0 in Montréal last month, but has only beaten RBNY twice in the same season once, back in 2019.

If only CF Montréal could play Toronto FC every week, then W’s would be a little easier to come by for Losada and Co.

David Beckham’s Inter Miami fly north to visit Montréal next Saturday night at Saputo.