BURNABY, B.C. — One year ago, the Montreal Impact rode a win in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship series to the CONCACAF Champions League, where the team won a quarter-final leg before 55,000-plus at Olympic Stadium.
This year, there will be no repeat.
The Impact was eliminated from the Canadian championship last night, falling 1-0 to league rival Vancouver Whitecaps FC before 5,134 at Swangard Stadium. Both teams play in the United Soccer Leagues First Division.
The Whitecaps face Toronto FC, from Major League Soccer, at home on Tuesday in a game that will go a long way to determining Canada's representative at the CONCACAF Champions League in 2009.
TFC has already beaten Vancouver and Montreal, both by 1-0, and is tied with the Whitecaps atop the standing at six points.
TFC has a game in hand, and will conclude the Canadian series with a game at Montreal on June 18.
Vancouver's Ethan Gage, an 18-year-old graduate of the club's residency program, scored with a 17-yard volley in the 68th minute. It was the first career goal for the Cochrane, Alta., native, and he became just the second residency graduate to score.
Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly saved the day with two saves in the 88th minute, thwarting Atte-Oudeyi Zanzan and former Vancouver teammate Eduardo Sebrango from close range.
The first half ended 0-0, but not before five yellow cards, including one to Whitecaps captain Martin Nash for dissent.
Nash, who was booked in Vancouver's series opener, will now miss the match against Toronto, and will have his ironman streak of 68 consecutive games snapped.
In the second half, Montreal goalkeeper Matt Jordan stopped a penalty kick from Charles Gbeke.
The Impact were missing three key players last night, including suspended captain Nevio Pizzolitto.
The Canadian championship is a three-team, six-game tournament that uses a home-and-away, round-robin format.
The winner receives the Voyageurs Cup and a berth into the CONCACAF Champions League.
Last year, TFC finished second and the Whitecaps were third.
Vancouver defeated Montreal 2-0 at Saputo Stadium last week, with Nolly playing the hero.
The Impact outshot its opponent 18-6, and hit three crossbars.
Montreal also fell 1-0 at Toronto earlier this month, which prompted the firing of coach John Limniatis.
He was replaced by assistant Marc Dos Santos.
TFC is playing to defend the honour of MLS, ostensibly a more competitive league than the USL-1, but nonetheless a circuit that failed to place a team in the CONCACAF semi-finals last year.
The Whitecaps are moving to MLS in 2011, while the Impact's owners remain in discussions with North America's premier soccer league, even after pulling their expansion bid last November, claiming the $40-million (U.S.) franchise fee was too steep.
The Impact narrowly missed becoming the second USL-1 team in the CONCACAF semis last season, losing a tiebreaker on away goals to Mexican side Santos Laguna.
The Puerto Rico Islanders, runners up to the Whitecaps for the 2008 USL-1 championship, advanced to the CONCACAF final four.
The CONCACAF Champions League winner competes for the FIFA World Club Championship, won last year by English Premier League behemoth Manchester United.