Impact goes through to the Canadian Championship final

4-2 win over Vancouver at Stade Saputo

MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact qualified for the Canadian Championship final, thanks to a 4-2 win in its semifinals return leg against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, on Tuesday evening at Stade Saputo, as Nacho Piatti scored two penalties, while Blerim Dzemaili and Anthony Jackson-Hamel also tallied. The Bleu-blanc-noir thus won the home-and-away series 5-4 on aggregate.

“It was important for us to play a smart game today,” said Impact head coach Mauro Biello. “We did a good job to unbalance them in the first half. We put them on their heels and were able to score goals. We also wanted to work on our cohesion in the middle and the three players did very well. Those were all positives. Sure, there were nervous moments at the end. We have to learn from them, but we also have to live those moments and move on. That’s how we grow as a team.”

A thrilling first half

As early as the first minute, the ‘Caps had their best chance of the initial period. Nicolás Mezquida found space on the right of the Montreal back line at the top of box. He turned to face goal and took a shot that sailed over Maxime Crépeau’s goal. From then on, the Bleu-blanc-noir’s left flank took matters in its own feet. Nacho Piatti, Blerim Dzemaili and Ambroise Oyongo kept asking questions to the Vancouver defense, starting in the 16th minute, as the Argentine number 10 sent Jackson through on the left, but his cross was blocked.

In the 19th minute, the Impact kept possession of the ball in its own half. Marco Donadel relayed the ball for Dzemaili, showing all his experience in the process. The Swiss international, in a pocket of space in the middle of the park, switched gears and passed the ball into Jackson’s running feet, who took advantage of an unbalanced defensive trio. The forward dribbled past goalkeeper Spencer Richey, who went to ground and tripped him; Piatti converted the following penalty.

A few minutes later, Dzemaili found Piatti in the inside left channel. The latter attacked the box and crossed the ball. The ball bounced for Jackson, who took a volley but narrowly missed the far post.

In the 26th minute, Piatti recovered the ball in his defensive third, on the left. Leading the counter, he gave the ball to a running Dzemaili. The Impact’s number 31 cut inside and beat Marcel De Jong, who was compromised and tripped the midfielder. The resulting free kick, taken by Laurent Ciman, was a designed play: Piatti, on the left of the Whitecaps’ wall, received the pass and entered the box. Mauro Rosales tripped him and the Impact got a second penalty in this game, which Piatti also converted, this time to the left of Richey.

Ten minutes later, Montreal added to its lead. Piatti and Oyongo combined on the left and the Cameroon international was freed to attack the box. His low cross was blocked by the defense, but landed at Dzemaili’s feed. He quickly dispatched the ball past Richey, scoring his first goal in Bleu-blanc-noir since his arrival from Bologna FC 1909.

Just before the half, Dzemaili almost added a fourth for the Impact, finding space around the last defender. He turned and shot powerfully, but Richey saved.

Vancouver tries to come back

In the 59th minute, Alphonso Davies, who had entered the game after half-time, found the ball at his feet in the Montreal box, after some indifferent defensive work. He took his chance and beat Maxime Crépeau with a low finish to bring his team back in the tie.

Only two minutes later, the Impact once again took a three-goal lead in the game. Donadel passed the ball in the air for Patrice Bernier, who crossed from the right. Richey and Tim Parker both went for the same ball, and the defender tipped it perfectly for Jackson. The homegrown player controlled with his chest before finishing on the volley.

The Bleu-blanc-noir started having some cold sweat in the 77th minute, as Kyle Greig climbed over everyone to head the ball into the goal, just inside the far post. The Whitecaps were only one goal away from qualification.

The very last play of the game, a free kick from the left for Vancouver, cause some uneasiness in the 15,213 supporters, but the ball ended up being cleared on the goal line by Oyongo and the final whistle was blown immediately after.

Upcoming games

The Montreal Impact will return to MLS action next weekend, as the New York Red Bulls will be back at Stade Saputo, this Saturday, June 3, at 7:30pm (TVA Sports 2, 98,5fm, TSN Radio 690). Excellent tickets for this rivalry game, as well as prorated season tickets, are still offered on impactmontreal.com. The Bleu-blanc-noir will then play at least two games on the road, first in Kansas City, on Saturday, June 10, then in Orlando, on Saturday, June 17. The first game of the Canadian Championship final, either against Ottawa Fury FC or Toronto FC, will take place on June 21.

LINEUPS

MTL – G-Maxime Crépeau; D-Ambroise Oyongo, Laurent Ciman, Kyle Fisher, Chris Duvall; M-Marco Donadel, Patrice Bernier (Adrián Arregui, 72’), Blerim Dzemaili (Daniel Lovitz, 84’); F-Nacho Piatti, Anthony Jackson-Hamel (Nick DePuy, 76’), Dominic Oduro.

Unused substitutes: Evan Bush, Víctor Cabrera, Hassoun Camara, David Choinière.

VAN – G-Spencer Richey; D-Marcel de Jong, Tim Parker, Cole Seiler; M-Kyle Greig, Russell Teibert, Ben McKendry (Cristian Techera 68’), Jakob Nerwinski; F-Nicolás Mezquida (Alphonso Davies, 46’), Mauro Rosales (Marco Bustos, 84’); Brek Shea.

Unused substitutes: Sean Melvin, Sem de Wit, David Norman, Gloire Amanda.

GOALS

MTL – Piatti 20’ (PK)
MTL – Piatti 28’ (PK)
MTL – Dzemaili 38’
VAN – Davies 59’
MTL – Jackson 61’
VAN – Greig 77’

CAUTIONS

VAN –Richey 19’
MTL –Donadel 43’
MTL –Duvall 80’
MTL –Ciman 90’
VAN –Shea 90’

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