If you polled even the most ardent of Montreal Impact supporters 10 games into the 2009 USL-1 season I'm sure only a very small minority would have thought that the Impact would make it all the way to the league finals. Despite their successful 2008 season and the fact that they were essentially the same team they got off to an awful start to the season. The chaos on the team became so rampant that midfielder Sandro Grande had to be released after he choked captain Mauro Biello during a game. The Impact had hit bottom. It was, in fact, so bad that coach John Liminiatis paid the ultimate price when he was fired.
Once assistant coach Marc Dos Santos was hired as the head coach and he revamped the starting line up and the team strategy slowly but surely the Impact showed improvement. The improvement continued to the point that they went undefeated in their last 7 regular season games and ended in 5th place overall. This meant that the Impact were in the playoffs. Quite an accomplishment for a team that was struggling so mightily at the beginning of the season.
Making it to the playoffs was just the beginning of their turn around as they defeated the 4th place Charleston Battery in the 1st round and then the 3rd placed Puerto Rico Islanders in the 2nd round. The Impact had made it all the way to the finals!
In the finals they were to face the only other Canadian team, the Vancouver Whitecaps. The same Whitecaps that defeated them in the semi-finals last season. Because they ended up higher in the standings than the Vancouver team (7th place) the first game was played at Swangard Stadium in Vancouver. It took a while for the goal scoring to beginning, but once it did it turned into a back and forth affair. One team would score to go ahead only to see the other score shortly after to tie it up. The contest seemed like it would end in a 2-2 tie when substitute Eduardo Sebrango, formerly of the Vancouver Whitecaps, scored a goal in the 89th minute to put the Impact up 3-2.
For the first time this season the league has made the finals a two game aggregate goal series. Meaning that the team that scores the most goals in the two games will win the title. The second game of the two game finals will take place this Saturday at Saputo Stadium with the home team needing a win or a tie to be crowned champions of the USL-1.
The team is going all out at for this final game of the season. The game starts at 2:30 p.m., but the doors will open at 12:30 for a tailgate party and a bandana autographed by the entire team will be distributed to the first 5,000 spectators. Make sure you get your tickets because the game is sure to sell out (13,000) and the place will be rocking. In a very classy move the Saputo family kept the price of the playoff tickets the same as during the regular season.
-Ticket Purchase: www.admission.com or (514) 790-1245 or at the Saputo Stadium box office.