Impact 2, Whitecaps 1 Players rested against Toronto return to edge Vancouver again
BY RANDY PHILLIPS
It wasn’t the team’s best performance of the season, but neither was it the worst, which arguably came less than 48 hours earlier.
The Impact bounced back from Thursday’s humiliating 6-1 loss to Toronto FC in the finale of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship with a hard-fought and well-played 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps as the club returned to regular-season action in the United Soccer Leagues First Division before 12,287 at Saputo Stadium yesterday.
Striker Robert Brown and forward Rocco Placentino each scored a goal and assisted on each other’s goal as the Impact used Soccer Day In Canada to effectively deal the Whitecaps a second dose of bad while in Montreal the past few days.
It began with Montreal, not purposely of course, allowing Toronto the four-goal margin it needed against the Impact to take the Canadian title from Vancouver on goals differential in the three-team, round-robin competition for a berth in this year’s CONCACAF Champions League.
The Whitecaps witnessed the proceedings first hand and were miffed, which is putting how they felt lightly, figured to gain huge payback yesterday, but the real Impact showed up to beat the ’Caps by the same score for the second time in as many games. And doing so the Impact gained three points to move from eighth in the standings to a tie for fifth with Vancouver and the Rochester Rhinos, each of whom have played one more game than Montreal.
The Impact now has won three of its last four games, including twice on the road. Yesterday’s performance, which saw seven starters who didn’t play against Toronto back in the lineup, put the nightmare of a couple days earlier and the fallout from it a little bit farther behind the club.
“I’m Christian and God is very fair,” head coach Marc Dos Santos said after seeing his team get back to the .500 mark at 4-4-2. “He’s extremely fair because when I took the decision to rest guys, guys who played today, I didn’t make that decision for me. I make it for the club because we knew the three points that were important were (today), not Thursday.
“So it was fair what happened today. My team showed up. The real Montreal Impact showed up,” he said.
Vancouver did as expected going to the attack early and forcing goalkeeper Matt Jordan to make several key saves among the nine shots he faced in the first half. Jordan faced 17 shots overall, more than twice as many as the Impact managed against ’Caps ’keeper Jay Nolly, and he made eight saves, including one on forward Dever Orgill midway through a marathon seven minutes of extra time to preserve the win.
The Impact broke down Vancouver’s defence and got to Nolly twice in a five-minute span in the first half. Placentino opened the scoring with his second goal of the season in the 34th minute after taking a short lateral pass from Brown from deep inside the penalty area and blasting the ball off the inside of the far goalpost.
Five minutes later Placentino set up Brown for a virtual tap for his third of the season.
Vancouver’s Marlon James got one back in the 63rd when the ball deflected off the arm of defender Stefano Pesoli, but other than Orgill’s chance in extra time, the closest the ’Caps came to getting the equalizer was in the 44th when James rattled a shot off the crossbar and Marco Reda, with the rebound, striking the goalpost.
“We responded well today,” said Placentino, who credited his mother’s pasta for his inspired play. “We all knew Thursday wasn’t an important match and yes we got a beating and it was embarrassing, but today was really important. We’re tied for fifth and really happy.”
The ’Caps were without the services of former Impact striker Charles Gbeke and defender Wesley Charles, both served the first game of a two-game suspension for coming to blows with each other in a 3-2 win over Miami in Vancouver June 12. Gbeke is the team’s leader scorer.
Defender Nevio Pizzolitto, who like Jordan and Brown, didn’t play against Toronto (Placentino played 20 minutes as a sub), said the team had a lot to lose yesterday, more so than having given up six goals to TFC.
“I felt pretty confident about today. I think we all did,” said Pizzolitto. “We got a good talking to after the Toronto game and everyone realized that whatever the circumstances, our performance wasn’t good enough because we’re not a mediocre team. We proved that today and we’ve got to keep it going.”
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