Impact take Canadian title over Toronto FC - Globe and Mail

Larry Millson

Montreal moves on to face Nicaraguan side in CONCACAF Champions League

TORONTO - The Montreal Impact needed only a draw last night to secure the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.

They achieved it on the back of 1-1 draw with Toronto FC at BMO Field and with it the chance to play in the CONCACAF Champions League this summer.

The home team, which plays in Major League Soccer, took an early lead on a goal by Rohan Ricketts, but could not hold on against the United Soccer Leagues outfit.

As a result, Toronto FC finished the three-team tournament with one victory, two draws and one defeat in its four games. Montreal had two victories, one draw and one defeat.

With a victory necessary to avoid elimination and a halftime score of 1-1, Toronto began pressing after the break, but had trouble producing any quality chances. Those that did materialize were squandered.

In the 60th minute, Montreal had the best chance of the second half to that point when Roberto Brown, looking for his second goal, shot wide.

Toronto began to create more chances as the half continued and made its first substitution in the 69th minute when Jeff Cunningham replaced 16-year-old Abdus Ibrahim up front.

Playing with a sense of urgency as the game entered its final 20 minutes, Toronto's season-long lack of scoring touch again reared its ugly head. Toronto had its best chance to secure a win in the 89th minute, but failed to nudge the ball over the line.

A couple of minutes later, as time wound down, Toronto goalkeeper Greg Sutton, a former Impact player, was forced to make a save on the counterattack.

As Canadian champions, the Impact now advance to the preliminary round of the CONCACAF Champions League and will play the Nicaragua's Real Esteli FC in a home-and-home series on Aug. 27 and Sept. 2.

Toronto FC, which went into the game without a victory in its eight previous games, found itself in the predicament of needing to win the final match of the tournament because it could not beat the Vancouver Whitecaps in home-and-home meetings.

Vancouver won 1-0 on July 1 at BMO Field, and the teams tied 2-2 in the rematch eight days later in at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, B.C.

The loss to Vancouver was the only time that Toronto FC had lost at home this season. Toronto is 5-0-4 at BMO Field in MLS play.

Toronto won the first game of the round-robin tournament on May 27, 1-0 over the Impact at Stade Saputo in Montreal. Montreal was reduced to 10 men in that game in the 52nd minute when Stefano Pesoli was ejected after picking up his second yellow card of the game.

Vancouver was eliminated after its draw with Toronto, however, as the Whitecaps lost both matches 2-0 to the Impact.

Both the Impact and Whitecaps play in the United Soccer Leagues' first division.

Toronto's Ricketts had opened the game's scoring in the 15th minute on a header from inside the six-yard box off a Jim Brennan cross. Montreal tied the score in the 26th minute on Brown's goal, set up by Joey Gjertsen's corner kick.

The Impact picked up two late yellow cards in the first half, one by Simon Gatti in the 38th minute and the other by Rocco Placentino in the 39th minute.

Toronto had no first-half cautions.

In the 52nd minute, Impact defender Adam Braz received Montreal's third yellow card of the game for a foul.

Julius James was an 85th-minute substitution for Marco Velez for Toronto.