Impact math challenged after loss - Montreal Impact

Cling to slim thread of repeating in Canadian Championship
 
BY RANDY PHILLIPS

The Impact needs not only to win its two remaining games convincingly, but get some help as well if it is to repeat as the Nutrilite Canadian Champion and advance to the CONCACAF Champions League tournament.

It’s not an impossible task, but could be if the Impact suffers the same disastrous start it did against the Vancouver Whitecaps before 11,483 at

Saputo Stadium Wednesday night.

Vancouver shocked the Impact with two goals in the first 17 minutes, including the winner by forward Marcus Haber 33 seconds into the game, to hand the series’ defending champion a 2-0 defeat. The loss left Montreal winless after two games and clinging to a slim thread mathematically of winning the three-team round-robin that includes Toronto FC of Major League Soccer.

The Impact fell to TFC in Toronto a week earlier and have to find a way to beat the ’Caps when the teams play again next Wednesday in Vancouver. In addition, the ’Caps must beat TFC in Vancouver June 2, and the Impact has to do the same June 17 when TFC is here.

If two or all three sides are tied with the same number of points, the tiebreaker will be the greater number of goals scored in games among the teams.

“We’re still alive. It’s not over,” Impact head coach Marc Dos Santos said. “It’s not over for any of us. There’s still a way to go. Why would we believe anything different?

“We made two tactical mistakes in the first 17 minutes, but after that we looked to come back. The guys obviously tried to win this game, but sometimes you get days when it’s tough to score goals,” he said.

“I’m not disappointed in how the guys played. We had (18) shots in the game and hit three crossbars. How can I be disappointed? I’m proud of them.”

The Impact beat Vancouver by 2-0 scores twice on the way to winning the championship last year and a magical run to the quarterfinals of the inaugural Champions League tournament.

The Whitecaps, who are jumping to MLS in 2011, obviously weren’t going to have any part of a possible repeat of last year’s performance in the Canadian series. As reigning United Soccer Leagues First Division champion, they got the better of the Impact in much the same way they did in the deciding game of the USL semi-

final in September, which they won 2-0 and 2-1 on aggregate.

“We’re extremely happy with the win,” Vancouver head coach Teitur Thordarrson said. “The way we started the game was extraordinary. After that, we played basically to protect our two-goal lead. We played well and deserved the win.”

The Impact gave up the quickest goal in the history of the franchise when Haber took advantage of a defensive miscue to score on a low blast to Matt Jordan’s right that left the veteran goalkeeper wondering where his teammates had disappeared to.

Gbeke, who’s worn the Impact uniform twice in his career, returned to haunt his old team when his header, after being set up by defender Takashi Hirano, beat Jordan in the 17th. The second defensive snafu.

It wasn’t a completely ugly night for the Impact. It could have easily tied or taken a one-goal lead at halftime had it not been for ’Caps goalkeeper Jay Nolly, who made six saves in the first 45 minutes and nine overall.

Nolly had the luck of the crossbar several times, including twice on the same possession in the 30th minute when midfielder Joey Gjertsen’s shot from 12 yards hit it and a header from striker Roberto Brown on the rebound from five yards out did as well.

Striker Eduardo Sebrango was robbed by Nolly in the third and a cannon shot off the foot of midfielder Rocco Placentino also struck the crossbar in the 37th.

The Impact, despite playing for fourth time in eight days, kept up the pressure in the second – outshot Vancouver 10-1 for an grand total of 18-6 - but it was to no avail. Gjertsen struck a chance high over the crossbar in the 64th, another header by Brown went inches wide in the 67th, Jolly stymied Sebrango one-on-one again in the 74th and did the same on opportunities by subs Stephen deRoux in the 78th and Peter Byers in the 87th.

“Obviously we’re disappointed. We didn’t get the result we were looking for,” said defender Adam Braz. “It’s always difficult when you concede two goals early, but I thought the way we reacted was superb. We created an unbelievable number of chances against a good defensive team.

“It wasn’t our lucky day in terms of converting chances, but I thought except for the first 15 to 20 minutes, we dominated the game. Unfortunately we didn’t score,” said Braz. “We have to regroup, keep our heads up. Mathematically we’re still alive in this competition. We know we have to get a win next Wednesday and we’ll be ready for that game.”

rphillips@thegazette.canwest.com

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