Montreal Impact will meet Toronto FC in the final of the 2019 Canadian Champions. It’s the final most fans would have anticipated going into the semi-final match-ups.
Before last night in Calgary, the Impact had not won a match in regulation time in this competition on the road for 8 years, and even on that occasion whilst still a USL club, they succumbed in extra time to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
But a headed goal after 14 minutes from Anthony Jackson-Hamel proved enough. Ironically it came from the type of set-piece Cavalry manager, Tommy Wheeldon Jnr hoped his side could exploit at the other end of the field, such has been Montreal’s defending of set-plays in recent games.
Mason Trafford had done his job well in blocking the ball from the previous attack, but he was left on his heels by Jackson-Hamel when Taider’s resultant corner was swept in. The Montreal attacker simply wanted it more, getting across the Cavalry defender to head goal-wards. Carducci in goal may have done better too, but in getting his left hand to the ball he was unable to prevent it finding the net.
The CanPL side had their best opportunity to equalize on 21 mins, when Zator managed to get around the back of Montreal’s defence unmarked, at Buscher’s corner. The home number four mistimed his strike however, heading downwards into the ground. Clement Diop made a routine save look spectacular, helping the ball over he bar as it bounced from the surface.
For the most part and for a change, Montreal defended these situations fairly comfortably, and there were many. In Pasquotti, Cavalry have a pacy wide-man who can jet-propel a throw-in, allowing such situations to more resemble a corner. The home side used this weapon extensively despite it never looking like reaping dividend on the night.
The mundane nature of the proceedings betrayed the wishes of a boisterous 5,000+ capacity crowd, although Cavalry and CanPL fans will be encouraged by the narrow margin of defeat.
Without Piatti, or an appearance by either of Bojan or Tabla, who each remained on the bench throughout, Montreal produced a professional but rather staid, performance. Positively, concentration levels at the back ensured few anxious moments, but creativity was at a premium.
Opportunities did arise in the second-half for Jackson-Hamel on 53, but his first touch on a through ball from Urruti was heavy, the chance disappearing completely when he tumbled under challenge, and for Lappalainen, who slid the ball past Carducci and post from a narrow angle in the 64th minute.
Remi Garde was pleased to emerge from Spruce Meadow with the win and his team’s goal in tact. He also had praise for his counterpart, Tommy Wheeldon Jnr.
“His team plays very well, they were two very good games and very difficult.
”I would like to congratulate everyone for a fantastic atmosphere that is great for Canadian soccer.“
The Impact coach also had less positive comments around organization, understandable with the game heading to its conclusion in near darkness, and field conditions.
“I was very surprised that the organization of this match was so poor. It was dangerous for the safety of the players of both teams, we could not play.
”It was very surprising to move in the dark. Player integrity must be at the top of the list of people in the office. It’s dangerous for the players and for the goalkeeper who does not see the ball. “
The French coach also made mention of the length of the turf, which he felt affected the technical quality of the game.
Montreal advances to their sixth final, they have won three of the previous five, with the intention of preventing arch-rivals Toronto FC from making it four titles-in-a-row, and securing Canada’s place in the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League, a stage they last graced in 2015.
Cavalry - Carducci - Zator, Wheeldon, Trafford, Mavila (Pepple, 80) - Eustaquio, Pasquotti, Buscher, Adekugbe (Oliver, 63), Escalante - Malonga
IMFC - Diop - Sagna, Camacho, Raitala, Corrales - Bayiha, Shome, Taider, Lappalainen (Krolicki, 69) - Urruti, Jackson-Hamel (Okwonkwo, 80)
Match Officials -
Referee - Pierre-Luc Lauziere
Asst Refs - Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho, Gianni Facchini
4th Official - Juan Márquez