MONTREAL — Before the start of the United Soccer Leagues First Division final, the Vancouver Whitecaps’ hardcore supporters unfurled a giant banner in Swangard Stadium that read, “Je Me Souviens 18/06/09.”
It was a cheeky reference, using the Quebec provincial motto of “I remember,” to the night the Montreal Impact dressed a side full of reserves and lost 6-1 to Toronto FC in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship — a result that denied the Whitecaps a CONCACAF Champions League spot based on goal differential.
If Impact fans are looking for an amusing retort at Saturday’s finale of the two-game, total-goals series, they could try: “Je Me Souviens 26/07/07.”
That’s the day the Whitecaps traded talented midfielders David Testo and Joey Gjertsen to Montreal for Alen Marcina and Ze Roberto, two unmemorable players who were gone by season’s end.
Whitecaps fans feel queasy when recalling that trade — probably the biggest, and worst, in club history.
Testo, especially, made that memory come flooding back during Montreal’s 3-2 first-leg win in Vancouver last Saturday.
He set up camp in a hole between his defenders and midfielders and, unmolested, conducted the orchestra with grace and precision.
Given the stage, that point-less performance was far more galling for the locals to watch than the two beautiful goals he’s scored at home since the trade.
Anything less than a complete turnaround in how the Whitecaps handle Testo in Saturday’s return leg at Saputo Stadium — in front of an expected sellout crowd of more than 13,000 — will spell doom for the defending champions.
“He was able to pick us apart when we had 11 guys, and 10 guys,” said Whitecaps midfielder Justin Moose, who will likely slide into a starting role on right wing — his first start since May 30. “We have to crowd that area more. We’ll make some changes tactically and sort it out.”
Vancouver coach Teitur Thordarson appears ready to make three midfield changes in total.
Ansu Toure is returning from a thigh injury to play the left side, and Chris Pozniak is the likely candidate to step in for suspended captain Martin Nash in central midfield along side Kenold Versailles.
“We have to have someone always present, just on top of him,” Pozniak said of Testo. “Make sure he doesn’t get the ball and all the knock downs don’t go to him. That’s something we didn’t address right all game.
“He takes up good positions, picks it up and plays simple. But if we make him work for it, he’ll be neutralized.”
Testo and Gjertsen — baffled and insulted by the trade at the time — say they long ago moved beyond resentment.
“At the time, Bob (Lilley, the Whitecaps’ head coach) thought it was necessary,” Testo said. “I don’t really reflect on his decision.”
Whitecaps midfielder Martin Nash, who is suspended for the game, and Impact forward Eduardo Sebrango are both going for their fifth title in a decade, so one will set a USL record for championships.
The two were first teammates with the Vancouver 86ers in 1999 and won championships together in Vancouver in 2006 and ‘08, as well as with the Rochester Rhinos in 2000.
Nash also won with Rochester in ’01, while Sebrango claimed a ring with Montreal in ’04.
“Ever since I’ve known Eddie, going back 10 years, he’s been one of the top two or three strikers in this league and that still hasn’t changed,” said Nash, who at 33 is three years Sebrango’s junior. “He’s just an unbelievable player. He scores goals, but even more than that, it’s the little things he does to make his team better, to help them win.”
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