This USL league match, broadcast as the opening game of CBC's Soccer Day in Canada, versus the Vancouver Whitecaps had all the markings of a very interesting one. Just a couple of days prior the Impact had dressed mostly substitute players for their final Nutrilite Canadian Championship game versus the Toronto FC and had lost 6-1. A brutal loss yes, but more importantly to the Whitecaps was that it was a loss that caused the Toronto team to grab the cup ahead of them based on goal difference. You could not blame Vancouver for thinking that the Impact had thrown the game on purpose no matter what Impact Coach Dos Santos said. This game could be seen as payback time for the Whitecaps.
Also the Impact record at home so far this season is not exactly an intimidating one (1-1-1). In general Montreal has had a rough start to the season and were only in 8th place (out of 11 teams) with 11 points coming into the game. Vancouver, the defending USL-1 champions, were in 5th place with 14 points. A win for Montreal would mean they would pull even with Vancouver in the standings. Plenty was at stake with this game.
Though the grey skies did not make for an ideal day for the spectators (though 12,287 showed up) it was a great day for soccer. It was not too sunny and hot nor was there any wind or rain. Perfect soccer conditions.
Each team would be missing important players with striker Charles Gbeke and fullback Wesley Charles both ineligible to play for Vancouver due to suspension and striker Eduardo Sebrango is in Cuba attending to personal business along with Patrick Leduc, Adam Braz, Mauro Biello, Cédric Joqueviel, and Pa Amadou Gai missing due to injuries. All the injuries meant that midfielder Stephen deRoux would be playing out of position at fullback and that Roberto Brown would be coupled with Rocco Placentino in the striker position.
From the opening whistle Vancouver took control of the game. During the first 10 minutes of play the Whitecaps had 5 corners. Montreal was pinned in their own end for most of the first 15 minutes of play. It did not look good for the home team. Sensing this the crowd started to really make noise to urge on their heroes. It seemed to help as Montreal began to wake up.
Rocco Placentino, who was really getting the best of Whitecap fullback Wes Knight, made several runs down the left side which led to scoring chances and infatigable midfielder David Testo was beginning to control much of the play in the middle of the field. Finally all these offensive forays paid off with the Impact scoring two goals within five minutes late in the first half.
Dangerous offensively all game, Placentino finally opened the scoring in the 34th minute with a bullet of a shot off the opposite post off a pass from Roberto Brown. Five minutes later Placentino returned the favour by setting up Brown (his 3rd goal of the season) for an easy goal. Brown was so open, despite being in the Whitecap 6 yard box, that Gazette reporter Randy Phillips commented to former Impact player Lloyd Barker, who was watching the game from the press box, that the goal looked like ones he used to score in that he could have had his lunch before putting the ball in the back of the net.
With the Impact playing such a strong game you almost did not want their momentum to be interrupted by halftime. If we thought the romp was on the team and its fans were brought down to earth by a couple of close calls at the end of the half. Impact defender deRoux gave up a free kick just outside the box in the 43rd minute that Martin Nash swung into the 6 yard box and Whitecap striker Marlon James headed off the crossbar. Phew! But the danger was not over as the rebound came off the crossbar right to Whitecap defender Marco Reda, who proceeded to head it off the post. Double phew! The Impact have had a nasty habit of giving up goals late in the half this season, but fortunately they were able to go into half with their 2-0 lead intact.
The second half went along fairly routinely for the home team until a giveaway led to the Whitecaps making it tight collar time. In the 63rd minute Impact fullback Stefano Pesoli (first start of the season) misplayed a ball that ended up on the foot of the dangerous Marlon James and then in the back of the Impact net. It would now be a character test for the Impact to see if they could resist the push by the Whitecaps in the final 20 minutes as they tried to get the tying goal.
Able to respond to Vancouver's picking up of the pace, especially during the last 10 minutes, and goaltender Matt Jordan making a great diving save off a header by Dever Orgill during the 7 minutes (??) of stoppage time that was tacked onto the game, led to the home team earning the 3 points they needed to pull even with the Vancouver team in the standings. They are now in 5th place, tied with the Whitecaps and Rochester Rhinos.
The Impact will be at home again this coming Tuesday when they face the Miami FC at 7:30 p.m.
-Officials: Referee: Justin Tasev
Linesmen: Pierre Cantave and Mike Lambert
-Goals: Montreal – 34' – Rocco Placentino assisted by Roberto Brown
Montreal – 39' – Roberto Brown assisted by Rocco Placentino
Vancouver – 63' – Marlon James
-Cards: Vancouver – 53' – Vincente Arze – Yellow
Montreal – 58' – Simon Gatti – Yellow
Montreal – 73' – Nevio Pizzolitto – Yellow
Vancouver – 80' – Ansu Toure – Yellow
Montreal – 83' – Matt Jordan – Yellow
-Shots: Montreal: 8
-Saves: Montreal: 8
-Corners: Montreal: 6
-Attendance: 12, 287
-Carlsberg Player of the Game: Rocco Placentino