By: Giordano Cescutti
On a day that will be remembered for its controversy, the Montreal Impact dropped its second-straight game at home, falling to third in the Eastern Conference. The catastrophic defeat puts a dent into Montreal's pursuit of first place, a blunt reminder that their initial mission of getting to the postseason has not yet been accomplished.
The Vancouver Whitecaps could not have anticipated a better afternoon at Saputo Stadium. Vying to jump back into the playoff picture, the Whitecaps took a huge step, playing their best game in quite some time and capturing three precious away points.
Vancouver capitalized on their first chance five minutes in. Nigel Reo Coker played a clever give-and-go with veteran fullback YP Lee and was one-on-one with Alessandro Nesta when he received the return ball. Reo Coker bursted past Nesta who could do no more but try to marshall his team into position in front of goal with a cross forthcoming. Reo Coker played the ball in to the top of the Impact area where Hassoun Camara slipped and touched the ball with his hand while trying to recover, prompting the official to point to the spot.
Vancouver's second leading scorer Kenny Miller did the honours and fired past Troy Perkins to give the 'Caps the go-ahead goal on the road.
Their leading scorer, Camilo came on as a substitute just after the hour mark and shined when his squad needed him most. The Brazilian sealed the victory in the 88th, when he took Nesta one-on-one after Montreal had pushed nearly everyone forward. He used his quickness to elude Nesta, ripping the ball back towards the far right post, surprising Perkins with his power, giving the 'Caps its insurance goal. It took him just two more minutes to direct the Saputo Stadium faithful up and out of their seats, their eyes directly on the exits. On another counter-attack after Montreal had let yet another goal-opportunity slip away, Camilo carried over midfield at shocked Perkins and the Impact defence with a 25-yard cracker, putting Vancouver up three.
The main event of the match transpired in the 33rd minute when it seemed as though Montreal would get back level when Patrice Bernier smashed a ball on the 'Caps goal and drew a penalty after the official judged it had touched an arm. Madness insued when the referee then called back the penalty more than a minute later, igniting the entire squad to bombard the official in anger and hang their hands on their heads in disbelief.
"It was a scandal" expressed a spirited Marco Schallibaum post-game. Schallibaum was irate with the 4th official who reversed the call, signaling for just a corner kick.
Defender Matteo Ferrari was inches away from the call and claimed it was the turning point in the match. "It's difficult to accept the score today. I want to give credit to Vancouver because they played a really good game but the key moment was the penalty" Ferrari explained post-game.
Major League Soccer released this statement post-game: "The match official decided, based on input from the entire referee crew, that there was not an intentional handling of the ball on this play. The ball deflected off a Vancouver player and a corner kick was awarded. The referee crew determined that the ball struck the Vancouver player's chest/shoulder with no intent to play the ball with his hand."
Montreal created numerous chances late in the match, testing Vancouver's keeper David Ousted, but they were never able to fully recover from the early Whitecaps goal, and the subsequent "scandal" call.
The Impact's best chance came in the 56th minute when it nearly found its lifeline on a Justin Mapp cross. Mapp floated a ball in for Felipe who demonstrated his best circus act by acrobatically hitting a scissor kick in the Vancouver 18 yard box. His shot rang off the Whitecaps crossbar, in what would have been the most spectacular Montreal goal of the season.
Montreal had another glorious opportunity moments later when Patrice Bernier found space and curled a left-footed effort towards David Ousted's goal. The 'Caps keeper fully stretched towards his left to knock the ball out of play and keep his squad on top, eventually for good.
Andrew Wenger entered the fray for Andres Romero in the 63rd minute, dropping into midfield rather than playing alongside Di Vaio in his natural forward role. Wenger looked quite comfortable playing behind Di Vaio, helping defend in the midfield while jumping into attack as often as he could. The former first-overall pick gave credit to Vancouver for their hard-fought road performance.
"They played a tough game. We couldn't find any good openings. We found a couple half-chances but couldn't make it a full chance. As we're pushing towards the end we had both our fullbacks up, at that point we have to take a risk. We need points."
Wenger is spot on. Montreal needs points, and with just six games to play in the regular season, four of which are on the road, they need them more than ever.
The Impact returns to CJAD800 on October 12th when they host the New England Revolution.