Defending champs of the Amway Canadian Championship the Montreal Impact were in a tough place. First, they had lost the first game of the semi-finals 2-1 against Edmonton FC, a team from the lower ranked NASL. Second, they were playing the second game at home in a fairly empty Saputo Stadium as the game was on the same night as game 7 between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins. Nothing like needing the support of your fans only to come out of the tunnel to see a vast amount of empty seats. Even the team’s super fans, the Ultras, numbers were a little thin. No being carried by your 12th man on this evening. The few thousand who were there and not watching the game tried their best, but the noise wasn’t the usual volume produced at Saputo Stadium.
This game at home was a chance for Montreal to get some confidence back. The early part of the season has not gone well for them finding them at the bottom of the East standings in the MLS. It had gotten so bad that they lost to a team they should beat with their eyes closed as they opened up their defense of the Amway Canadian Championship. The week before in Edmonton they went up 1-0 only to allow Edmonton to score 2 goals in the 2nd half and lose the game. The pressure was on.
The home side’s plan was to come out with energy, enthusiasm and taking the play to Edmonton. Edmonton was going to defend. Meaning collapsing into their own end and protecting their one goal lead. Montreal would have to dictate the play. Draw them out. They accomplished just that starting off strong scoring a couple of goals in the game’s first 17 minutes. Both were by Jack McInerney. McInerney showed his fine goal scoring instincts with being in the right place and the right time and then finishing calmly. Both goals were set up by the Impact’s steadiest and best player this season – winger Justin Mappy. Using his pace and that deadly left foot he provided top class service to his striker. The first he moved quickly down the right side and then crossed the ball to the far post finding McInerney. On the second he skillfully backheeled a Sanna Nyassi pass at the top of the 18 yard box onto the run of McInerney. McInerney is not going to miss many when set up like that. It was looking like the Mapp-McInerney show.
Throughout the 1st half it looked like a contest of men against boys. As it should when an MLS team plays a NASL side. Montreal controlled possession of the ball and created plenty of offensive chances. It was always in the Edmonton end. McInerney thought he had scored to earn a hattrick in the 33rd minute, but the referee’s assistant had judged him offside in a tight call.
Montreal did get their 3rd goal of the game just after the restart of play in the 2nd half. This time it was off a set play. A corner kick was won by Montreal and it was taken by Hernan Bernardello. A guy you don’t expect to score, fullback Jeb Brovsky got his head to it and beautifully directed it into the far side of the net. A nice reward for a guy who has had a tough time cracking the Montreal line-up this season.
As often happens in all sports when one team takes a big lead they sometimes lose focus or just simply take their foot off the pedal. It is a delicate balance between maintaining your advantage and not humiliating the other side. The Impact, who seem to be suffering from a lack of leadership this season so far, definitely let up. This allowed Edmonton to score two quick goals both by Frank Jonke, one via penalty kick, in the 67th and 70th minute.
They were still winning 3-2 with 20 minutes remaining in the game, but it was not enough to win. If they wanted to advance to the Amway Canadian Championship finals the Impact had to win by at least two goals. The funny thing about taking your foot off the gas in sports is that it is a tough thing to do to ramp it up again. Montreal tried, but could not really get it back together. Suddenly we were at the 90 minute mark and things looked completely hopeless.
When it was announced by the 4th official that a minimum of 6 extra minutes would be added on hope was renewed. Hope when down again when the 6th minute mark was reached. Then really out of nowhere they pulled one out of the fire. Referee Drew Fischer brought on the ire of the Edmonton side when in the last few seconds of the added time he called a hand ball against them inside the box – a penalty shot. Impact captain and crack penalty taker Patrice Bernier stepped up and using his usual stutter step technique scored the goal that would allow Montreal to advance to the finals to face Toronto FC.
Montreal’s next game is a league game on the road in Washington against D.C. United, the team of former Impact captain Davy Arnaud.
-Referee: Drew Fischer
-Goals: 1st Half:
10th minute: Montreal – Jack McInerney assisted by Justin Mapp
17th minute: Montreal – Jack McInerney assisted by Justin Mapp and Sanna Nyassi
47th minute: Montreal – Jeb Brovsky assisted by Hernan Bernardello
67th minute: Edmonton – Frank Jonke assisted by Hanson Boakai and Kareem Moses
70th minute: Edmonton – (pk) Frank Jonke
90th + 7 minute: Montreal – (pk) Patrice Bernier
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 6
Edmonton – 4
-Corner Kicks: Montreal – 5
Edmonton – 6
-Final Score: Montreal – 4
Edmonton – 2