BY GARY KINGSTON
A dismal performance Thursday by what was essentially the Montreal Impact ‘B’ team has sparked the USL First Division squad’s fan club to call for a boycott of the opening half of today’s nationally televised game with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Impact, injury-riddled and missing key striker Eddy Sebrango who returned home to Cuba for family reasons, dressed several backups and were demolished 6-1 by Toronto FC at Saputo Stadium. The win gave Toronto the Nutrilite Canadian championship on goal differential over the Vancouver Whitecaps after both teams finished the three-team double round-robin tournament with identical 3-1-0 records.
Winning the Voyageurs Cup allows Toronto FC to move on to the CONCACAF Champions League this summer against the Puerto Rico Islanders.
The Impact, who had nothing to play for, played like it as a dejected group of Whitecaps looked on from the stands. And they weren’t the only ones upset by the Impact’s futile effort.
“After the disgraceful performance offered by the Montreal Impact against Toronto FC, the Ultras Montreal have decided to protest the lack of respect towards Impact fans,” the Ultras wrote on a Canadian soccer website.
“We invite all season ticket holders . . . to support us in our initiative. Since our team decided not to give it 100 per cent against Toronto, we decided to do the same thing Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps.”
The Ultras will not show up for the first half. They’re inviting like-minded fans to watch the first half on TV at a local pub, then walk to the stadium in time for the second half.
Nick De Santis, the Impact’s technical director, said the Thursday debacle was “unacceptable” but added that he supported coach Marc Dos Santos’ decision to rest guys for today’s league game.
“But I made it clear to our players, Marc 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,” De Santis told the Montreal Gazette.
The Whitecaps have some player issues of their own, however. Striker Charles Gbeke and central defender Wesley Charles will both serve the first game of two-game suspensions. With Jeff Parke (turf toe) sidelined and Justin Thompson having quit the team to concentrate on his business, the Caps are thin at the back.
Up front, Gbeke’s absence means fit-again Marlon James and Marcus Haber will partner as a striker tandem.
“I think Marcus and Marlon make a good combination as strikers because they can hold the ball up, as well as threaten the space in behind the defenders,” head coach Teitur Thordarson told whitecapsfc.com. “We have more speed available in our attack, which is what I’m very much looking forward to utilizing in our two away games.”
Speed and likely some anger.
“The Whitecaps will do everything in their power to avenge what happened on Thursday night,” said Dos Santos. “We will have to be ready to face an enraged team. The Montreal Impact will have to reveal their true character.”
And they may have to do it in front of a lot of empty seats, at least in the first half.
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