Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s first-ever Voyageurs Cup remains firmly in sight.
The ‘Caps scored two important road goals in a wild 2-2 draw with Montreal Impact on Wednesday night in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship Final.
This tournament just never seems to disappoint.
After a scoreless first half in which Vancouver failed to register a shot, Darren Mattocks and Pedro Morales gave the visitors a 2-0 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
However, this one was just getting started.
Montreal mustered a late comeback through Laurent Ciman and Anthony Jackson-Hamel, which means there will be everything to play for in the decisive second leg on August 26 at BC Place.
“There are two ways of looking at it,” Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson said. “You can look at it like we’ve lost the game, which we haven’t. Or you can look at it and say we’re very much in the [series]. And we’ll look at it like we’re very much in the [series] going back home to BC Place… hopefully [Drogba and Piatti] play when they come. It sets up a fantastic game.”
The two-time defending Canadian champion Impact had Vancouver on their heels early at Stade Saputo. And they came within inches of opening the scoring in the third minute, when Maxim Tissot curled in a side-footed attempt from the top of the box.
Fortunately for the visiting ‘Caps, who made eight changes after a weekend win over Real Salt Lake, a sprawling Paolo Tornaghi deflected it off the far post.
That was one of Tornaghi’s three saves in the first half – he also turned away a pair of long-distance strikes from Nigel Reo-Coker and Donny Toia – and six on the night.
Montreal controlled possession throughout the opening 45 minutes, but Vancouver managed to weather the early storm. And they had a chance of their own in the 18th minute.
After a heads-up interception from Deybi Flores in midfield, the 19-year-old sent in Mattocks, who got in behind and rounded the keeper before running out of real estate.
Aside from bringing in Christian Dean for an injured Diego Rodriguez (quad contusion), Robinson stuck to his guns heading into the second half. And they returned in the favour.
In the 65th minute, Mattocks tapped in a perfect cross from a lively Kianz Froese, who made a terrific run down the left moments prior.
Just seven minutes later, Morales made it 2-0 with an inch-perfect free kick from a nearly impossible angle. It was a just reward for the ‘Caps skipper, who actually won the ball in midfield leading up to Mattocks’ marker.
To their credit, the Impact didn’t go away.
And they eventually brought the game level with goals in the 84th and 85th minutes, one off a corner and one off a low cross from the left.
Robinson’s side likely won’t be happy with surrendering a two-goal lead, but they still have the advantage heading into the final leg. As a result of the two away goals, Whitecaps FC will be crowned Canadian champions with a scoreless draw, a 1-1 draw, or a win in the second leg.
The Impact, meanwhile, need a win or a draw with three or more goals.
Kickoff for the second leg is set for 7 p.m. on August 26 at BC Place – tickets are still available.
Meanwhile, the ‘Caps return to MLS action on Saturday with an important Western Conference tilt at Sporting Kansas City (6 p.m. kickoff on TSN2).
Man of the Match: Kianz Froese
Referee: David Gantar