Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Whitecaps crash out of Canadian Championships

MONTREAL, QC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC (0W-0L-3D) saw their hopes of winning the 2010 Nutrilite Canadian Championship come to an end on Wednesday evening following a very disappointing 1-1 away draw with Montreal Impact (0W-2L-2D).

Ansu Toure's first goal of the season looked to have given the Whitecaps hope of taking the three-club competition into next week's final match. However, a well-taken equalizer from Impact midfielder Philippe Billy meant the 'Caps chances of winning this year's Voyageurs Cup title and Canada's lone spot in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League were at an end for another season. It was Vancouver's third-straight draw in this year's tournament, with the Whitecaps now going eight matches without a victory versus Montreal (0W-5L-3D).

Wednesday's result at Montreal's Stade Saputo meant that Toronto FC (2W-0L-1D) retained the Canadian Championship title they first won last year, and with a match to spare. The Major League Soccer club will receive the Voyageurs Cup at next Wednesday's final tournament clash between TFC and the Whitecaps at Toronto's BMO Field.

Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson made one change from the starting line-up that faced Rochester Rhinos in USSF D-2 Pro League action at Swangard Stadium last weekend, with Wes Knight replacing Chris Williams at right fullback. Impact head coach Marc Dos Santos, meanwhile, included former Whitecaps players Srdjan Djekanovic in goal, Tony Donatelli in midfield, and Eduardo Sebrango in attack, as Montreal played in a 4-3-3 formation.

On what was a hot and humid evening in Montreal, the all-blue Whitecaps carried most of the play in the first half, as they earned as many as six corners before the break.

Though the heat was seemingly taking a toll on the pace of the game, the visitors nearly made the vital breakthrough on nine minutes. Ansu Toure did well down the left-hand side to elude his Impact marker Adam Braz before cutting a pass back to Cornelius Stewart from the byline. The young forward struck a first-time shot from close range, but Djekanovic reacted well to make the save before Whitecaps captain Martin Nash had his rebound shot deflect away for a corner.

It proved to be the best chance of the half for the Blue and White, with left fullback Zurab Tsiskaridze having the next couple of Vancouver opportunities. The Georgian defender hit a long-range free kick wide of the target on 20 minutes before he forced Djekanovic into a simple goal line save with his header from a Nash corner on 31 minutes.

With nothing to play for on Wednesday, Montreal played a patient game by sitting back and trying to hit the Whitecaps on the counter-attack. The home side's best chance of the half fell to the dangerous Rocco Placentino, as he forced an assured save from Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly with a solid strike from the edge of the Whitecaps box.

The last chance of the half fell to the Whitecaps on 41 minutes, as Tsiskaridze caused Djekanovic a bit of a scare with a looping shot that fell on the roof of the Montreal net.

It meant that both sides went to the break at 0-0.

With only 45 minutes left to try and find that all-important goal, the Whitecaps proceeded to attack the Impact from the restart. On 47 minutes, Djekanovic needed to stop Tsiskaridze's free kick before Montreal defender Stefano Pesoli did ever so well to clear Knight's flicked throw-in from the onrushing Greg Janicki at the far post two minutes later.

The pressure from the visitors was building, and on 50 minutes, the breakthrough was made through winger Ansu Toure. Knight's cross from the right flicked off the head of Janicki in the Impact box before bouncing out fortuitously to the Liberian midfielder. His first-time strike deflected off the legs of Montreal defender Hicham Aaboubou and past Djekanovic for a 1-0 Whitecaps lead.

The goal seemed to answer the prayers of all Whitecaps supporters, who were keen to see their side take the third edition of the Canadian Championship to the final match day in Southern Ontario next week. However, what seemed possible for about 12 minutes of second-half action was suddenly ended by an Impact equalizer.

On 62 minutes, former 'Caps striker Sebrango got on the end of a ball in the Vancouver box before turning and hitting a cross-field pass to an unmarked Billy. With time and space to pick his spot, the Impact defender struck a fine shot past a helpless Nolly to level matters at 1-1. It was the Frenchman's first-ever goal for the Quebec-based outfit.

Billy's goal would have frustrated the Whitecaps faithful, and needing to restore the advantage again, Thordarson gave Mauritanian youngster Doudou Toure his Whitecaps men's team debut on 64 minutes, as he replaced midfielder Justin Moose. The Whitecaps Residency striker was soon followed by Japanese fullback Takashi Hirano, who replaced goalscorer Ansu Toure on the left-hand side of midfield.

Vancouver's response to Montreal's goal was positive. Stewart hit the side-netting with a close-range chance before Nash had two free-kick opportunities come to nothing during the midway point of the half. On 69 minutes, 18-year-old Doudou Toure got on the end of Nash through ball before eluding the challenge of Braz and striking a shot wide of goal.

Thordarson's third and final substitution was to bring on midfielder Ricardo Sanchez for Knight. On 80 minutes, the Mexican was afforded space to run at the Montreal backline, but his low shot failed to test Djekanovic in the Impact goal.

With the scoreline even, Montreal seemed happy to take their chances when they presented themselves. On 82 minutes, Placentino forced an important save from Nolly with a wide-angled run and shot that saw the ball roll across the face of the Whitecaps goal. Then a minute later, the dangerous Impact attacker flashed another drive just wide of the target.

With the match in the dying stages, Vancouver's need for a second goal was becoming more apparent. On 88 minutes, Doudou Toure had a great chance in front of the Impact goal, but his header to Sanchez's well-taken corner flew agonizingly over Djekanovic's crossbar.

As the match entered three minutes of time added on, there were chances at both ends for a match winner. Doudou Toure made a fine into the Montreal box before Aaboubou did well to intervene the youngster with his challenge. At the other end, Nolly made an excellent save to deny Placentino from scoring a dramatic winner for the home side.

The final whistle from match referee Silviu Petrescu confirmed another Canadian Championship campaign was over for both the Whitecaps and the Impact, with next Wednesday's visit to Toronto now a mere formality for Thordarson's squad as Toronto FC claim the title for the second straight year.


The Whitecaps will quickly turn their attentions back to league action on Saturday night, as they head down to Upstate New York for a return visit with the Rhinos. With their 2010 Voyageurs Cup schedule now complete, the Impact will also return to USSF D-2 action, as they host NASL Conference rivals Carolina RailHawks at Stade Saputo on Sunday afternoon.

Scoring Summary:
50' - VAN - Ansu Toure (Nelson Akwari)
62' - MON - Philippe Billy (Eduardo Sebrango)

Match Stats:
Shots: Vancouver 18 - Montreal 8
Saves: Vancouver 4 - Montreal 8
Fouls: Vancouver 12 - Montreal 11
Corners: Vancouver 10 - Montreal 3
Offsides: Vancouver 2 - Montreal 0

68' - MON - Stefano Pesoli
73' - MON - Srdjan Djekanovic
89' - MON - Philippe Billy

Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Jay Nolly; 77.Zurab Tsiskaridze, 2.Nelson Akwari, 14.Greg Janicki, 8.Wes Knight (99.Ricardo Sanchez 76'); 16.Ansu Toure (22.Takashi Hirano 68'), 7.Martin Nash, 3.Luca Bellisomo, 19.Justin Moose (18.Doudou Toure 64'); 24.Marcus Haber, 39.Cornelius Stewart

Subs not used: 31.Simon Thomas, 4.Chris Williams, 9.Marlon James, 12.Jonny Steele

Montreal Impact
22.Srdjan Djekanovic; 21.Philippe Billy, 2.Hicham Aaboubou, 16.Stefano Pesoli, 3.Adam Braz; 6.Tyler Hemming (28.Peter Byers 57'); 8.Filipe Soares (23.Stephen deRoux 45'), 14.Tony Donatelli (15.Patrick Leduc 75'); 11.Leonardo Di Lorenzo, 9.Rocco Placentino; 12.Eduardo Sebrango

Subs not used: 1.Matt Jordan, 5.Nevio Pizzolitto, 7.David Testo, 26.Cedric Joqueviel

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