By Jim Morris
BURNABY, B.C. — Given a second chance, Ethan Gage wasn't going to miss again.
Gage scored his first goal as a professional soccer player in the 67th minute to give the Vancouver Whitecaps a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact Wednesday night in a Nutrilite Canadian Championship match. The win sets up a showdown with Toronto FC next week in Vancouver. The Whitecaps and Toronto both have six points in the three-team tournament and are tied with a goal differential of plus two.
If the Whitecaps win next Tuesday's match at Swangard Stadium, it would mean Toronto must win their June 18 game in Montreal and have a better goal differential.
The loss, before a crowd of 5,134 fans, ended Montreal's hopes of repeating as Nutrilite champions.
The tournament winner receives the Voyageurs Cup trophy and a berth in the preliminary round of the CONCACAF Championships League.
The winning goal came after Montreal defender Eduardo Sebrango, a former Whitecap, tried to clear the ball from in front of his own net. Gage, an 18-year-old from Cochrane, Alta., intercepted the attempt and beat Montreal goalkeeper Matt Jordan from about 18 yards out.
"I've had opportunities in previous games and I knew I was getting chances to score, so I knew I was going to score one of these games," said Gage, a member of the Whitecaps' residency program. "I had a very good opportunity in the fist half to score with a header, but I missed that.
"For the rest of the game I was thinking 'I have to get that one back.' I just shot and it happened to go in."
Sebrango made no excuses.
"It was a bad clear," he said, shaking his head. "He was in the right spot and he did a good shot and a good finish.
"It was disappointing. I wish I could take it back, but I can't."
Whitecaps captain Martin Nash said it was a must-win game for Vancouver.
3/8"We needed a win, we knew that coming in," said Nash. "We had a lot of chances.
"We were trying to win by more than one (goal). We have our destiny in our own hands. We have to go to the next game and try and win. I think we have the ability to do that."
Nash will be forced to watch the Toronto game from the bench. He drew a yellow card in the 36th minute, his second of the tournament, earning him a suspension.
He received the card after a hard tackle by Montreal defender Adam Braz. Nash and Braz exchanged shoves, then the Vancouver player had words with referee Dave Gantar, who produced the yellow card.
"It was a little bit stupid on my part," said Nash, the younger brother of NBA star Steve Nash. "I didn't think it deserved the card.
"It's more frustrating I let my team down. I think it was something that didn't need to happen. We have great players that can step in."
Nash's other yellow card came in the 90th minute of Vancouver's 2-0 win over Montreal last week.
At least Nash won't have to play on BMO Field's artificial turf, which he ripped after the game.
"It's the worst turf I've played on," said Nash. "It's really bad. It's really bouncy and doesn't roll true. It's not the right type of turf for soccer. It's more of an American football turf.
"I don't know why they chose that one. Also the traffic they put on the field, it's ludicrous really for a professional soccer team to be playing on those turf fields. They mat down and they become not good playing surfaces. I think they need to do something about it."
Nash says a grass field should be installed.
"I can't see it happening," he said. "To get the stadium they did what they had to do. If they put a grass surface in there, the product will get better."
Gantar handed out six yellow cards in the match, five in the first half.
The Whitecaps were given a golden chance to score in the 55th minute when Charles Gbeke was hauled down at the top of the penalty box by Braz.
Jordan made a nice save to stop Gbeke's low shot to the left-hand corner. The rebound came to Justin Moose, who fired it over the top of the goal.
Braz was given a yellow card on the play.
The Whitecaps controlled most of the first half but the score remained 0-0 after 45 minutes.
Vancouver forward Marcus Haber tested Jordan in the 21st minute. He blasted a low, rocket of a shot that Jordan stopped with a diving, fingertip save.
Gage barely missed with a header in the 25th minute.
The play began after Jordan was shown a yellow card after arguing with Gantar over a tackle along the end line. The Whitecaps were awarded a free kick from the side of the box. Nash lifted a pass into the middle that Gage put over the top of the net from about four yards out.
The Whitecaps were defeated 1-0 by Toronto in a May 6 game at BMO Field and Vancouver coach Teitur Thordarson says he's looking forward to avenging that loss.
"It will be a big game," said Thordarson. "By winning tonight we have it in our hands but it will be a very tough game.
"I feel we are playing very well and we have a very good chance to beat them."
The Whitecaps and Impact both play in the First Division of the United Soccer Leagues. Toronto plays in Major League Soccer, which Vancouver will join in 2011.
Notes: The Impact beat Vancouver twice, by 2-0 scores, during last year's tournament. ...Nash was playing in his 69th consecutive game. ...Vancouver defender Wesley Charles was suspended from the match after receiving two yellow cards in his previous two Nutrilite games.
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