BY IAN WALKER
The only thing more bizarre than the Vancouver Whitecaps being in the United Soccer Leagues First Division championship is the fact their opponent is in the United Soccer Leagues First Division championship. It’s no joke. If there were two more dysfunctional teams this season than the Whitecaps and Montreal Impact, Jerry Springer would want to book them.
It’s more than that, though. The similarities between the two clubs go well beyond eerie. We’re talking Twilight Zone, here, folks. (For those under the age of 30, Twilight Zone was a cult hit TV series that ran from 1959-64 with each episode concluding with a macabre or unexpected twist.)
Both teams started their campaigns with high expectations only to struggle through most of the season before enjoying late surges that pushed them into the two-game USL-1 final series.
The Whitecaps and Impact both have just one loss in their last 10 games, dating back to the regular season, with only a single point separating them in the season-ending standings. Vancouver is seeking its second championship in a row and third in the last four years. Montreal has also won the title twice.
But the parallels don’t end there. Take, for instance, a little case of both clubs having to punt a player off their respective rosters for violence. Violence against a teammate, at that. You can’t make this stuff up.
“It’s a little bit ironic ... they had that case with Wesley Charles and we had that case with Sandro Grande, so things were very much similar,” said Impact head coach Marc Dos Santos, during a Friday press conference to hype the all-Canadian matchup. “But now it’s time to separate things in the final. It is odd, it is ironic, but it’s life and there can only be one winner.”
And that should be the soccer fan.
Tonight’s first-leg of the two-game, aggregate-goal series will feature two of the hottest soccer teams this side of the Atlantic. The Whitecaps battled to the seventh and final playoff spot in the 11-team league, while Montreal managed fifth place with a late flurry of wins. Both had to knock off a pair of higher seeds to get this far, with Vancouver edging Portland 5-4 on aggregate in one league semifinal and Montreal ousting 2008 USL-1 finalist Puerto Rico 4-2 in the other semi.
And we haven’t even mentioned Montreal seemingly throwing its final game of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, a 7-1 loss to Toronto FC that eliminated Vancouver from representing Canada at the CONCACAF Champions League qualifying tournament.
“We had things both on-field and off-field and these things were also happening in Montreal,” said Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson. “It’s a credit to both organizations that we are standing here today and also fitting in a way.”
Doo-doo, doo-doo. Doo-doo, doo-doo.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun