Home MLS Montreal Impact Whitecaps edge Impact, but most too busy watching Habs to notice

Whitecaps edge Impact, but most too busy watching Habs to notice

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Despite a fierce rivalry and the implication that it would be a rugged evening, the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps played a relatively pacific match in the first leg of their Nutrilite Canadian Championship semifinal.

The teams met at Saputo Field before a sparse crowd estimated at 3,500 spectators due to the deciding game of the NHL’s Habs-Bruins series.

Projected to come out on the short end of a one-sided affair against the relentlessly offensive visiting Whitecaps, Marc Dos Santos’s pink and black-kitted crew surprised by showing far better ensemble play than they did on Saturday in its NASL game against Tampa Bay FC and made the game a close one, losing a 1-0 decision to Major League Soccer’s Vancouver representative.

Superior ball control allowed the Impact to dominate the first half with former Vancouver defender Zurab Tsiskaridze, who led the Whitecaps last season in yellow cards, playing his best half of the season in the opening 45 minutes. Projected by his former teammates to be far more physical and somewhat less gentlemanly in his approach, the player nicknamed “Zee:was an offensive force, setting up Ali Gerba on a couple occasions but the big striker was unable to find the net.

Vancouver missed twice in the early going, with Terry Dunfield putting the ball to the right of Bill Gaudette’s net in the ninth minute and Camilo following suit to the other side two minutes later. The Impact keeper tipped two shots over his cage in as many minutes — the second try being the tougher chance. It came in the 20th minute.

The momentum shifted as the teams came out for the second half with the Whitecaps taking charge and outplaying the Impact in the first 20 minutes. Their determination and increased efforts paid off when Vancouver broke th tie with the night’s only marker, going a goal up in the 67th minute when midfielder Dunfield headed a Camilo pass up and into the Impact net.

At the 81st minute a cheer went up from the crowd accompanied by pyrotechnics from the Ultras in section 114. It turned out to be a celebration of the Canadiens tying goal in Boston with two minutes to play, rather than related to matters unfolding on the pitch. Fans did not empty Saputo stadium immediately following the final whistle with many of them remaining briefly — at the invitation of the Impact — to watch the short, disappointing overtime of the Canadiens-Bruins hockey game.

Montreal defender Kevin Hatchi, shown a yellow card in the 62nd minute, was the only player disciplined by referee Carol Anne Chenard, who was working the Nutrilite Canadian Championship for the third year in a row.

Montreal’s Ali Gerba wrestles with Vancouver’s Davide Chiumiento. PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER/PÉPÉ

Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson spoke to the media after the game.

“I think we played well, better in the second half than in the first, “he said. “Obviously I’m very happy because in past years it has been very difficult to come in here and leave with three points.”

Impact head coach Marc Dos Santos then took to the podium, saying, “We let up in the first 20 minutes of the second half but it’s still far from finished. We spoke downstairs and we’re all still very confident. “

He declared the game to be an experience that the team could build on if they come out as strong next time as this evening. “It’s the first time we’ve played two games with basically their same line-up and things are starting to come together. I’m very confident that the team will show better results. Even if we did not win the game we feel that we built something positive tonight. I saw more mobility, more options, and better lateral play. ”

Asked if the small crowd played a role in the Impact loss Dos Santos stated that the Impact always plays better in front of a full house of supporters but that in Montreal the Canadiens were king. “It was chilly out tonight and for many people it was preferable to be at home in front of the TV, maybe with a glass of wine, watching the hockey game.”

The Canadiens will not be negatively impacting soccer attendance until at least October, having been consigned to the golf course by the Bruins this evening.

Throw-ins — Monday the Impact released Marco Terminesi, who joined the club last June, appeared in five games and recorded a single assist in 2010. He spent the 2009 season with the Minnesota Thunder where his career was interrupted by a battle with cancer in February 2010

The Whitecaps and Impact have played each other 53 times before tonight, a rivalry that stretches back to 1993 with Montreal holding a 29-15-9 record since then.

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