MONTREAL — As sounds of celebration and throbbing dance music filled the Montreal Impact's locker-room Saturday, barely 10 feet away the Vancouver Whitecaps players and staff shuffled out of their room one-by-one, heads down.
Vancouver's reign as USL First Division champions came to a disappointing end, with a 3-1 second-leg defeat to Canadian rival Montreal.
The 2008 champions needed a two-goal lead in Saturday's ultimate game, but saw that amount escalate after Montreal's Tony Donatelli scored on a penalty shot in the 30th minute to spark a series of three straight Impact goals.
The penalty also led to a Whitecaps red card when defenceman Shaun Pejic challenged the official's decision.
"We had high hopes," Vancouver 'keeper Jay Nolly said. "Two red cards in two games is tough to chase in a final series. We needed two goals and they ended up punishing us.
Vancouver captain Martin Nash received a red card in the first leg.
Was the red card justified?
"No," Nolly said. "(The shot) was wide of the goal and (the referee) gives the guy a penalty kick. It's a playoff final, let the guys play."
Visibly dazed after the defeat as Montreal hoisted its third title - its second in five years - coach Teitur Thordarson told reporters he couldn't figure out how his team had received another red card.
"The red card totally destroyed the game, said the coach. "Our defender was the first on the ball and they take the ball away from us."
Pejic raced with Donatelli for the ball in the box but appeared to slide on the Impact midfielder's feet, causing him to trip.
Referee Dae Gantar called the penalty, the defenceman kept protesting and the official ejected him.
"A penalty? Maybe. But a red card? Ridiculous," said Thordarson. "It's just strange."
The playoff final was a matter of pride for one player - ex-Impact striker Charles Gbeke, the USL's top goal scorer (12) and third in points during the regular season, went to Vancouver in 2008 in exchange for Donatelli. He was on the winning side when his two goals allowed the Whitecaps to defeat Porto Rico 2-1 in last year's final.
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