Caps snap Saputo slump
BY IAN WALKER
It wasn't quite Commercial Drive during the World Cup, but the corner of Granville and Nelson offered a small taste of what’s to come should the Vancouver Whitecaps win the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.
Glasses were raised and beer was spilled as die-hard Caps fans gathered at Doolin’s Irish Pub to cheer on Vancouver’s 2-0 victory over the Montreal Impact in front of 11,483 at Saputo Stadium on Wednesday.
The Whitecaps control their own destiny with a 1-1 record and a pair of home games remaining in the three-team, round-robin tournament.
Wins over Montreal next Wednesday and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC on June 2 would all but clinch a berth in CONCACAF Champions League play.
The defending champion Impact are winless after two games and all but mathematically eliminated from the competition.
“It was loud, it was intense, exciting … everything I expected of a game of this stature and more,” said Marcus Haber, who put Vancouver ahead with his goal 50 seconds into the game.
“We were good to jump on it and take them and the crowd out of it. We knew we pretty much had to win out so this is a good start. To get a road win and have our next two games at home, I’m confident in our chances.”
Haber took advantage of a colossal defensive lapse by the Impact to score on a low blast to goalkeeper Matt Jordan’s right. Charles Gbeke took advantage of another defensive blunder by heading home a perfect cross from defender Takashi Hirano on the left wing in the 17th minute.
Vancouver head coach Teitur Thordarson opted for defense over offense in the second half, moving a striker to midfield.
The Whitecaps still needed goalie Jay Nolly to be his best as well as the luck of the crossbar on several occasions — including twice on the same possession in the 30th minute — to keep in the chase for the Canadian championship.
“We’re extremely happy with the win, we should have maybe scored more, but it’s always good to be ahead rather than chase,” said Thordarson.
“The way we started the game was extraordinary. In the second half we were a little more tactical. We knew it would be tough in our end.
“We’ve had two tough away games and losing one and winning one is tremendous. Our two home games will be tough, but there’s a certain advantage.”
Time is also in Vancouver’s favour. The Whitecaps’ final two games will be contested over the next two weeks, allowing the excitement to build in the city as well as help keep the team’s focus from fading.
“We know we can improve defensively, we know we can score more,” said Haber, 20.
“It’s good the next games are in quick succession in order to carry our good form over as soon as possible.”
The Impact rode the wave of emotion from winning last year’s inaugural tournament all the way to the Champions League quarter-finals, drawing 55,571 spectators to Olympic Stadium for a game against Santos Laguna of Mexico in February.
Quite a few more than the 30 or so Whitecaps supporters huddled in a corner of Doolin’s, but you got to start somewhere.
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