By Marc Weber
BURNABY, B.C. — The Montreal Impact are done. The Vancouver Whitecaps are very much alive.
Vancouver took as much control of its own destiny as possible Wednesday night, beating Montreal 1-0 at Swangard Stadium in a crucial Nutrilite Canadian Championship game.
With the win, the Whitecaps eliminated the defending title holders and set up a massive home game against Toronto FC on June 2.
A win there for Vancouver (2-1-0) and Toronto (2-0-0) would need to conjure up something special at Montreal (0-3-0) on June 18.
Goal differential is the first tie-breaker and the Whitecaps previously beat Montreal 2-0, compared to Toronto’s 1-0 scoreline.
The eventual tournament winner earns the Voyageurs Cup as Canada’s top team and, far more importantly, advances to represent Canada in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Midfielder Ethan Gage, the just-turned-18-year-old from Cochrane, Atla. played hero for Vancouver, ripping in the winning goal from 18 yards out in the 67 minute.
The ball fell to Gage at the top of the box after Montreal failed to clear a flicked-on header by Whitecaps forward Marcus Haber.
Gage also helped goalkeeper Jay Nolly earn the shutout, racing back in the 27th minute to thwart a breakaway for Joey Gjertsen.
That was Montreal’s best chance until the 88th minute when Nolly was called on to make two huge saves, first off Atte-Oudeyi Zanzan then off Eddie Sebrango from in close.
Referee Dave Gantar handed out five yellow cards in a chippy first half, the harshest to Whitecaps captain and field general Martin Nash for dissent. Nash will now miss the Toronto game as it’s his second yellow card.
Nash felt he was fouled by defender Adam Braz at the top of the box and expressed his displeasure to an unappreciative Gantar.
Vancouver by no means imposed its will on Montreal in the opening half, but they could have been up 2-0. Gage sailed a free header high from five yards and Haber whiffed on a pass in a great shooting position.
Impact goalkeeper Matt Jordan kept his team in it with a penalty kick save off Charles Gbeke in minute 55, diving to his left.
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service