Little-used Ribeiro plays the hero - The Gazette

Extra-time goal propels Impact into USL semifinals against Whitecaps

RANDY PHILLIPS

Antonio Ribeiro will tell you timing is everything. The veteran midfielder hasn't played much this season, but came off the bench with two minutes left in regulation and, getting his first touch of the ball a couple of minutes into extra time, scored the golden goal that propelled the Impact into the United Soccer Leagues First Division semifinals.

"How did it happen? I'm not really sure. I was just in the right place at the right time when that ball came off the crossbar. It just sort of fell at my feet and I kicked it," said Ribeiro, who played only 600 minutes during the regular season. "But it was very important because now we're through. I'm very happy for me and for the team."

Ribeiro's goal, only his second of the season and unassisted, was the insurance the Impact needed in a 3-1 victory over the league defending champion Seattle Sounders in the return leg of a home-and-away, aggregate-goal quarterfinal before 11,134 at Saputo Stadium last night.

Montreal took the series 4-3 on total goals after dropping a 2-1 decision in Seattle Friday night.

"Everything worked out at the right moment tonight," Impact head coach John Limniatis said. "Once they went a man down, we just tried to put as much offence out there as we could when things were in our favour.

"Obviously, this game could have gone either way, but at the end of the day we prevailed," Limniatis said. "It's congratulations to all the guys. We worked really hard, especially in the second half of the game."

The Impact will face the Vancouver Whitecaps in the same format for the semifinal with the Game 1 on the West Coast Friday. The return leg will be at the stadium on Sunday.

The Whitecaps defeated the Minnesota Thunder 5-4 on aggregate last night despite losing the return leg of their quarterfinal 4-3.

The Impact's win means another hectic week for the club, which leaves tomorrow for Honduras to face CD Olimpia Wednesday night in CONCACAF Champions League group play.

It was a rising shot by Joey Gjertsen from approximately 30 metres in front of the Seattle net that Ribeiro converted off the crossbar to cap a wild affair.

The second half was a complete contrast to the goalless opening 45 minutes.

Not only were four goals scored, but three players were ejected, including two Sounders, by referee Mauricio Navarro.

But the real fun came in the 78th minute when Seattle was awarded a penalty kick trailing 2-1.

Forward Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar calmly beat Impact goalkeeper Matt Jordan to seemingly knot the score at 2-2.

But wait, the goal was disallowed because a Sounders player had crossed into the penalty area too early. Forced to kick again, Alcaraz-Cuellar's second attempt slammed off the goal post.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer was livid with Navarro's work, basically calling the official incompetent after the game.

"The referee took the game away from the players on both teams. He only thought of himself," he said. "He cheated us out of a chance to win. It was junior league stuff."

Rocco Placentino, nicknamed The Rocket, gave the Impact a 2-1 advantage in the 75th, a minute after Seattle forward Roger Levesque - who beat Jordan with the Sounders' only goal in the 59th to tie the score - was ejected for violent contact on Impact defender Adam Braz.

Braz made an early exit himself in the 77th when he picked up his second yellow card of the game for hauling down a Seattle player in the box and which led to the bizarre scenario on the penalty kick that arguably decided the Sounders' fate.

Seattle was reduced to nine players, including its 'keeper, when defender Danny Jackson received a red card for a hard trip on forward Roberto Brown on a partial breakaway during the last minute of extra time.

Midfielder David Testo scored in the 56th minute to snap a goal-less game and after the Impact had dominated play from the start, but failed to get a quality shot by Seattle 'keeper Christopher Eylander. Testo completed a nifty three-way passing play that saw him set up by Byers after he took a short pass from Brown, who entered the game in the 51st minute for Tony Donatello.

rphillips@thegazette.canwest.com

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Peter Cooney says it's for nights like last night that Joey Saputo built us a stadium.