BY GARY KINGSTON
At home in front of his television set, Bob Lenarduzzi watched in near shock Thursday as his Vancouver Whitecaps' almost certain advance to the CONCACAF Champions League stunningly washed away on a wet Thursday night in Montreal.
"Just extreme disappointment," said the 'Caps president as the final whistle blew in Toronto FC's gutsy 6-1 victory over the Montreal Impact, a result that made the Major Soccer League squad the Nutrilite Canadian champions on goal differential.
"No, I didn't expect that, certainly not 6-1. It seems inconceivable."
Toronto, which wound up with the same 3-1-0 record as Vancouver in the three-team, home-and-away series, needed to beat the Impact by four goals to advance. They did it with a goal to spare, giving up the opening tally on a penalty, then continually storming the attacking half of the field against an injury-riddled Impact and backup goalkeeper Srdjan Djekanovic.
Impact head coach Marc Dos Santos, whose club had no chance to win the Voyageurs Cup trophy and must play a regular-season date with the Whitecaps on Saturday, defended his starting lineup. It included only two players who started against Toronto in a 1-0 loss on May 13 to open the four-game round-robin.
"There were a lot of replacements on the field, but anyone who the Impact signs to play has the quality to play," he told reporters in Montreal. "I don't think that player A, B or C did bad. I think it was collectively our character."
Toronto head coach Chris Cummins said people had written his team off, "but there is something special building with the club. Credit the lads, they came up with goals at the right time."
Lenarduzzi, whose USL First Division team had beaten Toronto 2-0 at Swangard Stadium on June 3 to put themselves in tremendous position to advance, gave Toronto "full credit.
"You could see their confidence starting to rise when it got to 3-1. It's easy to be critical [of the Impact], but I'd rather give Toronto credit for doing what they needed to do."
Toronto, which had scored as many as four goals only once in its short three-year history, now advances to meet the Puerto Rico Islanders of the USL in a home-and-home series in mid-summer late July for the right to move into the CONCACAF Group Stage.
With the Whitecaps players watching from the stands, the celebrating Toronto players took the trophy over to an exuberant band of shirts-off supporters who had made the trip to Montreal.
"We did almost as much as we could," said Lenarduzzi. "We put Toronto in a position where they had to get an unbelievable result and they did.
Canadian international midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, taking advantage of sloppy play by the Montreal defence, scored Toronto's first three goals after Montreal midfielder Tony Donatelli had put the Impact ahead in the 24th minute on a well-placed penalty kick. It was De Rosario's third goal four minutes into the second half that seemed to put the real jump in Toronto's legs.
Amado Guevara scored twice for Toronto, the first on a free kick in the 69th minute and delivered the corner that substitute Chad Barrett headed in in the 83rd minute for the decisive goal.
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