BY RANDY PHILLIPS
MONTREAL — Nick De Santis says Soccer Day in Canada is an opportunity for the Montreal Impact to make things right.
The Impact host the Vancouver Whitecaps in league action on Saturday, a little a more than 36 hours after being embarrassed 6-1 by Toronto FC in the finale of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.
The debacle at Saputo Stadium Thursday night was one of the worst losses in franchise history as TFC scored more than the four goals it needed to win by in order to steal the Canadian title from the Whitecaps and advance to this year’s CONCACAF Champions League.
“It was unacceptable,” De Santis, the team’s technical director, said Friday. “You’re playing at home in front of 10,000 fans, it’s only normal to feel that way. But I have to level-headed and analyze everything, go with my coach’s decision that guys needed to rest for an important game (Saturday).
“But I made it clear to our players, Marc (head coach Dos Santos) did as well that, if they thought there was no significance in Thursday’s game, then make things right even though we know Vancouver is going to come out livid and will have a point to prove.”
Toronto had never scored more than four goals in a game in its brief history as Canada’s lone entry in Major League Soccer (MLS) and had only scored four in a game once.
Only twice in the 16-year history of the Impact had they allowed four goals at home, but not since July 3, 2002 in a 4-1 loss to Cincinnati.
The nightmare against TFC, relinquishing four goals in the second half, was the second-worst, second-half disaster of 2009 for the club which was eliminated by Mexico’s Santos Laguna in early March in the quarter-final of the last Champions League tournament. The Impact gave up four goals in the final 39 minutes, including two in the first three minutes of stoppage time, in a 5-2 loss of the game, 5-4 on series’ aggregate.
The Whitecaps were in attendance Thursday, fully expecting a favour from the Impact which would have seen them land the Voyageurs Cup and advance to Champions League after having compiled a 3-1 record in the three-team tournament, including a 2-0 win over Toronto earlier.
The Impact — not in contention to repeat as champions and despite injuries to several key players — still clearly didn’t field their strongest squad and there were questions raised about a lineup that included goalkeeper Srjdan Djekanovic starting in place of veteran Matt Jordan.
Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi, who remained in Vancouver, told reporters he would discuss the outcome of the game with Canadian Soccer Association officials.
De Santis said that though unacceptable, the outcome reflected different approaches to the game by both teams.
“Sometimes situations like that become very tricky because you’re playing a game where there are two different mindsets,” he said. “One is of a team that needs to win at all cost, is going to impose the game on you, and will do everything to win and we saw that. Then you have a team, that while it wants to do well, doesn’t have the same mindset.
“Playing with a different mindset, is it right? Probably not, but we do have to be realistic about certain things,” said De Santis. “Still, it doesn’t take away from the fact that we very disappointed and upset and we told Vancouver as much.
“I do feel for Vancouver,” he added. “Their destiny was in our hands even though it shouldn’t have been.”
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