USL News Release
Saturday, October 17, 2009
MONTREAL, QC – The Montreal Impact became the third club in league history to win a third league championship, downing the defending champion Vancouver Whitecaps 6-3 on aggregate in the USL First Division Championship series with a 3-1 victory in the second leg at Stade Saputo Saturday before a sold out crowd of over 13,000.
The first team to post a perfect record in the postseason since the 1999 Minnesota Thunder, the Impact started their sixth win in succession with a game-changing play on the half hour mark when a penalty and Vancouver send-off gave the Impact a two-goal series lead and a man advantage.
Then a three-goal frenzy in the final five minutes of the half left the Impact in front in the game 3-1 and in a commanding advantage in the series, allowing them to play a very possession-oriented second half with the extra man to secure the championship.
“I couldn’t be any happier for this team, this city, the fans here. They really deserve it,” said midfielder David Testo. “They supported us the whole year – even when we were down, so to come out on top like his and be champions at home, I couldn’t be happier and thank everyone for it.”
Vancouver coach Teitur Thordarson came into the match saying that it was key that the opposition not score the opener, but his worries were doubled with the red card also coming to Shaun Pejic.
In the 28th minute, the Impact were awarded a penalty on a play that began with Leonardo Di Lorenzo sending a ball up the middle into the area. Goalkeeper Jay Nolly and Montreal’s Tony Donatelli raced to the ball, which slipped away as the two arrived at the same time. The ball went to the left to Roberto Brown, who was tackled hard by Pejic, leading to the card. After the dismissal of the defender, Donatelli slotted the ball inside the left post for the two-goal aggregate advantage.
The play changed the momentum away from the Whitecaps, who were putting offensive pressure on the Impact defense much of the previous 15-20 minutes.
In the 36th, Ansu Toure made a nice run toward goal for Vancouver, slicing through the defense and getting a shot off from the edge of the box, but it was blocked by a defender before getting to goal.
Two minutes later a cross from the right wing found the head of Brown for a shot that nearly beat Nolly, who made a good diving stop toward the far post.
But just a minute later, Montreal put a lock on the championship. Joey Gjertsen swung the ball out to the left flank to Brown, who crossed the ball back into the middle to Gjertsen, who one-timed it past the keeper with a defender hanging on his shoulder for a 2-0 lead in the game in the 40 minute. The strike gave the hosts a three-goal advantage in the series.
The Impact did not let up and the attack continued with Brown finding the back of the net in the 42nd minute. Di Lorenzo sent the ball from the flank to Gjertsen at the edge of the area. Gjertsen held off a defender and delivered to the center of the box to Peter Byers, who with his back to goal laid it off to the penalty spot to Brown, who buried it past Nolly and was later honored as the USL-1 Championship Series Most Valuable Player.
The goal scoring spree continued with Vancouver finally getting on the scoreboard via a strike from Toure at the other end. Chris Pozniak made a run up the middle and threaded the ball to Marlon James, who delivered a cross from the edge of the area to the back post, where the diminutive winger rose to put the header inside the upright to make the match 3-1.
Desperation and numerous insertions of fresh attacking players by the Whitecaps in the second half were thoroughly negated by the Impact, who maintained much of the possession and limited the Whitecaps opportunities.
The best chance of the half for Vancouver came in the 63rd when a cross in to Kenold Versailles created a chance, but his shot was slightly directed off target.
“We built up throughout the playoffs, and I think in the finals we peaked,” said Gjertsen, who was happy to not only win against former team, but especially pleased to win it in front of home fans having won his Whitecaps title on the road in Rochester previously. “Six goals in two games we are going to be hard to beat, but well done to the ‘Caps, they fought the whole time.”
“We were written off early [in the year], as well as maybe the Whitecaps were,” added Gjertsen. “We showed that once you get into the playoffs - one through seven you’re all equal. Us and Vancouver showed that getting here, and we finished ‘em off.”
The Impact closed out the title run inserting veterans Eduardo Sebrango, who scored the game-winner in the first leg, and Mauro Biello in the final minutes of the match.
The title was the fifth of Sebrango’s career, the most of any player in league history. Biello won his third with the Impact, having played for the club since its inception in 1993. Along with Nevio Pizzolitto, who played the entire match, he helped guide the club to its previous championships in 1994 and 2004 as well as having won the US Open Cup championship with Rochester in his lone campaign outside of Montreal in 1999.
Montreal joined the Rochester Rhinos (1998, 2000, 2001) and Seattle Sounders (1995, 1996, 2005, 2007) as three-time USL-1 champions. Combined with its five regular season titles (1995-97, 2005-06), the Impact have more league titles than any other club, two more than Seattle’s seven.
The championship celebration capped a year which began with heartbreak as the club suffered a severe collapse in the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals, falling on the road to Santos Laguna of Mexico after posting a victory at home in the opening leg of the series.
“The [loss to] Santos Laguna and the psychological impact that had on us, starting off the season really bad and then coming back and growing as a team, showing character with the results and confidence and peaking at the right time,” said Biello about the evolution of the season. “That’s what happened. The momentum we had at the end of the season, we brought it into the playoffs and I gotta congratulate all of my teammates and the organization on the fantastic job they did.”
Statistical Reports: Leg One [+] Leg Two [+]
Other Stories: Mind game for Montreal in 2009 [+] Biello: No decision on retirement [+]
Montreal Impact report [+] Vancouver Whitecaps report [+]