When you consider the ingredients that create a sports rivalry, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC-Montreal Impact feud pretty well covers all bases. Geographically, the cities aren’t close, but they’re both Canadian clubs eager to be the best in the country. As far as connections go, there have been many players and coaches who have been a part of both organizations.
And history, you ask? Well there is no shortage of that either.
Next season, Montreal make the jump to MLS. But on Wednesday, the two clubs meet in the first leg of a two-match semifinal series in the 2011 Nutrilite Canadian Championship at Montreal’s Saputo Stadium (5 p.m. PT, Sportsnet Pacific and East, TEAM 1410 Radio, teamradio.ca).
Whitecaps FC and the Impact have faced one another an often-memorable 19 times over the past three seasons alone. In anticipation of this week’s matchpup, MLSsoccer.com takes a look at five critical moments that have stirred the dislike between the two clubs. The results of these games include three red cards, five championships decided, and a whole lot of bad blood.
Sept. 24, 2006: USL First Division semifinals
After a 0-0 draw in the first leg, Vancouver traveled to Montreal’s Claude-Robillard Stadium to face the first-place Impact, a team that they hadn’t beaten in five years. Still scoreless after 180 minutes of action over two games, the deciding match went to extra time. Former Montreal striker Eduardo Sebrango proved the hero for Vancouver, scoring a goal in the 114th minute.
Sebrango then removed his jersey in celebration and received his second yellow card to get ejected from the match. The ‘Caps still managed to net a second goal as time ran out, winning 2-0 and advancing to the final, where they captured their first USL Championship over Rochester Raging Rhinos.
Oct. 5, 2008: USL First Division semifinals
In their sixth and seventh meetings of the season, Vancouver and Montreal squared off in the second round of the USL playoffs. Montreal were riding high after winning the inaugural Nutrilite Canadian Championship and going on a spectacular run through the inaugural edition of the CONCACAF Champions League. Vancouver, meanwhile, were looking to move a step closer to making another addition to their packed trophy case.
The first leg was a heated affair, as usual. It was so heated, in fact, that normally mild-mannered goalkeeper Jay Nolly was ejected after a 52nd minute skirmish in front of his net.
His absence meant that back-up Tyler Baldock had to step into net for the first time as a professional. The young ‘keeper performed well in the first leg, holding the Impact to a 1-0 lead heading into the second leg back home.
With Nolly suspended for the return match, the ‘Caps rallied together to beat the Impact 2-0 at Swangard Stadium - thanks to goals by Jeff Clarke and Sebrango. With the win, they advanced to the finals, where they beat Puerto Rico Islanders 2-1 and won their second USL-1 championship title in three seasons.
June 18, 2009: Montreal v. Toronto in Nutrilite Canadian Championship
It may seem odd to include a match that wasn’t contested by both teams, but truth be told, this may be the defining moment of the Whitecaps FC-Impact rivalry.
Following two wins against Montreal, Vancouver earned a 2-0 victory at home against Toronto FC that looked to send them on their way to the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League, as TFC needed to beat Montreal by at least four goals in the tournament finale at Stade Saputo.
However, with Teitur Thordarson’s side in attendance, Toronto did just that, thrashing Montreal 6-1 in a shocking effort by the home side.
Vancouver were especially displeased with the result considering that they battled to a 2-2 draw at home against Toronto in a similar situation the year before to help the Impact win the inaugural NCC title. To add insult to injury, Montreal defeated Vancouver 2-1 at Stade Saputo in a league match two days later.
Oct. 17, 2009: USL Championship finals
With tension still brewing from the fallout of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, the ‘Caps and the Impact met again, this time in a two-leg USL-1 Championship Series. This was the first time that the two teams had met in a final.
Red cards once again played a part in the results, as Vancouver played 100 of the 180 minutes down a man. The first leg saw Martin Nash shown a straight red for a sliding tackle on Impact striker Roberto Brown, as Montreal prevailed 3-2. Vancouver had little chance to rally in the second leg at Stade Saputo, as defender Shaun Pejic was ejected in the 28th minute for his tackle on Brown, which led to an Impact penalty. Montreal went on to a 3-1 win, earning their fifth win over Vancouver that season and their first league championship since 2004.
May 26, 2010: Nutrilite Canadian Championship
In a situation quite similar to the 2009 Toronto-Montreal debacle, Vancouver traveled to Quebec to face the already-eliminated Impact in a crucial Canadian Championship match. Whitecaps FC needed a victory to set up a deciding final match against TFC in Toronto, while the home side had nothing but pride to play for. The last time that Montreal were in that situation, they lost 6-1.
This time, the Impact refused to be embarrassed, preferring the gratification of eliminating their bitter rivals themselves. Thordarson’s side took the lead early in the second half and looked for a short period like they would get the win they needed, but Montreal levelled 10 minutes later.
Despite the fact that a draw earned them nothing, Montreal decided to kill the clock, shielding the ball in the corner to preserve a 1-1 draw and denying the ‘Caps a chance at Canadian glory for the third straight time.