Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Wednesday's Voyageurs Cup game between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact felt rather like an episode of 24, starting slowly and building to a chaotic and hard-to-believe 1-1 final. In between, there were a couple of goals, plenty of cards and much more entertainment than that other Vancouver team offered.
The match offered little at first, with both teams electing to start defensive lineups; Montreal fielded a 4-5-1 with Peter Byers as the lone striker, while Vancouver opted for a 4-4-1-1 with Marcus Haber supported by attacking midfielder Jonny Steele. The Whitecaps controlled most of the early possession, but only created a few chances, and the score remained level until Byers slipped one by Jay Nolly in the 31st minute. Montreal then took over the game for the next fifty minutes until a bizarre sequence of events unfolded.
With time dwindling, the Whitecaps began to apply more pressure, and they were helped by a dubious foul called just outside the Montreal penalty area. That led to a free kick swung in by Martin Nash, and Impact defender Adam Braz lost his mind. Already on a yellow card, he saw Vancouver central back Greg Janicki slip by him as the ball soared into the air, and responded by bull-rushing Janicki and knocking him out of the way before the cross got there. That resulted in Braz's ejection and a penalty kick for the Whitecaps, which Marcus Haber coolly converted for his first goal of this year in the 81st minute.
Thanks to the score being knotted at one and Montreal being reduced to 10 men, Vancouver turned the pressure on even more. They had several further chances, but were foiled by excellent keeping from Matt Jordan, who grabbed every cross that came anywhere near him. Marlon James actually managed to sneak through the defence and beat an onrushing Jordan, but his shot trickled wide. You have to think Vancouver may regret that missed opportunity down the road.
Right at the end, there was a further complication. A clash between Montreal's Reda Agourram and Vancouver's Chris Williams saw Agourram sent off with a straight red card. It was difficult to tell what exactly happened, but the result means Montreal could face a couple suspensions for the upcoming tournament games. Already missing Roberto Brown after a foolish punch against Toronto FC, they could be even more shorthanded for the rest of the tournament, a difficult prospect considering that they have only one point from two games.
Head coach Marc Dos Santos is convinced that they're not out of it yet, however. In the post-match press conference, he pointed out that the Impact came back to win the inaugural Nutrilite Canadian Championship under identical circumstances in 2007.
"If we've done it once, we can do it again," he said.
They will need plenty of help from both Vancouver and Toronto FC, though, as the most Montreal can now finish the tournament with is seven points.
"We can't depend on ourselves anymore," Dos Santos said.
He was rather displeased with the way the match turned out.
"I really felt we deserved the full three points until the 80th minute," he said. "Until the 80th minute, Vancouver didn't have a real chance."
His Whitecaps' counterpart, Teitur Thordarson, also wasn't happy with the end result.
"I'm a little disappointed we didn't get more than one point," he said.
Thordarson was pleased with Vancouver's early play, but disappointed with their second half performance.
In the end, the draw was probably a fair result. The shots were 7-7, with Vancouver putting three on net and Montreal responding with four. It was a chippy game as well, with 14 fouls for the Impact and seven for Vancouver. Neither side will be completely happy with their showing, and the draw does give Toronto FC a leg up on the competition, but there are still plenty of matches to be played. If the rest of the tournament is anything like this, it won't be lacking in drama.
[Cross-posted to The 24th Minute]