Analysis: Vancouver play spoiler in upset 3-1 win over Montreal

Fredy Montero Vancouver Whitecaps
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Vancouver, Canada — Organized chaos without the organized. That’s how one would have described Sunday’s fixture between the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact.

So their rematch just three days later was a mouth-watering match up. Looking to close out their home stand with some sort of positive, Vancouver had the chance to play spoiler for the Impact. A win or draw would have given Montreal the round robin victory in this phase of play, as well as a spot in the Canadian Championship.

However, the main prize was a spot in the Champions League. Any other result and Toronto FC would claim the winnings.

Marc Dos Santos switched up the formation again, this time to a 4-2-3-1. Six changes to his side from Saturday, including Fredy Montero replacing the suspended Lucas Cavallini, and the long awaited return of Janio Bikel. His counter part, Thierry Henry, sent out the usual 4-2-3-1, unchanged apart from Shamit Shome filling the boots of the suspended Emanuel Maciel.

A slow and rather dull first 35 minutes was highlighted by nothing more than an occasional but rather fruitful cross or two from the Impact. Neither manager was too impressed, more so Henry since his side needed the full three points to gain a Champions League birth. But then, in a motion that William Zabka from The Karate Kid would’ve been proud of, the landscape changed with a single sweep of the leg.

Or more of a strike. If you can call it that.

Following Cristian Dajome taking down Rudy Camacho in Montreal’s box, Montero seemed to have said something to the Frenchman. Clearly, it wasn’t very pleasant to hear, or at least not to Camacho. A short punch to the knee of Montero sent the Columbian to the ground, and Camacho off the field.

Two goals in Three minutes for Vancouver

The “challenge” on Montero resulted in a straight red card from referee Drew Fischer and a penalty to Vancouver. With Cavallini’s — and poor penalty record — Montero stepped up. Clearly the punch wasn’t a knock out blow, as Montero calmly slotted the game’s first goal past Clement Diop.

In Montero’s first start since August 2019, you could tell he was relieved to open his account for 2020.

Then moments later, his Columbian counterpart Dajome doubled Vancouver’s advantage. Jake Nerwinski and David Milinkovic worked the ball down the right side, before squaring it to an open Dajome. After taking a touch, he struck the ball past Diop for Vancouver’s second goal in three minutes, just before the half time whistle. The goal was Dajome’s team leading third of the season, and seemed like a dagger to Montreal’s Champions League hopes.

An interesting note going into the break was that Camacho and Cristián Gutierrez (both defenders) lead their sides in touches and passes.

All to play for

Despite a chaotic and rather “against the run of play” 10 minutes, Montreal found themselves clawing away at Vancouver’s defense for the entirety of the second half. It took until the 69th minute to finally break the bending Whitecaps. A long stretch pass found the boot of Saphir Taider with room to work. His ball through to Romell Quioto forced the Honduran to turn his back into the challenging Ranko Veselinovic. A rather easy turn allowed Quioto to roof one near post on Thomas Hasal for his team leading fifth of the campaign.

However, Vancouver didn’t roll over like Montreal might have thought, and uneasy with how the final 20 minutes were shaping up, Leonard Owusu stepped up. After being heavily criticized after his last performance, Owusu sparked a couple of chances, forcing Diop to make some impressive saves. However, he couldn’t stop them all.

Caught up on a fast break, Vancouver hit Montreal on the counter attack, something their used to seeing from the other angle. Owusu and Montero seemed to have miscommunicated and essentially ran into each other. A simple lay off at the edge of the box allowed Montero to slot home his second of the game. And this time, it seemed a definite dagger with 12 minutes remaining.

Final whistle

Vancouver dominated possession in the final 10 minutes, taking advantage of the extra man. A few more chances happened at both ends but nothing being added to the score sheet. The three points meant Toronto would get their Champions League birth, with Montreal falling short at the final hurdle. Potentially they did it to themselves with Camacho’s red and a lack of urgency following their first goal.

Regardless, Vancouver walked out of BC Place as victors.

Up a pair late, Vancouver knocked the ball around with ease and comfort. Montreal’s midfield didn’t produce anywhere near enough energy in the second half, especially after drawing back to within one. The mantra that’s as old as the game itself struck again with “you’re most vulnerable once you’ve just scored.”

Fredy Montero with a brace in his first start in over a year is the deserved man of the match, and it opens an interesting debate between himself and Cavallini over the starting striker moving forward.

Time will tell how it all unfolds, with Vancouver on the road to Real Salt Lake this Saturday. Montreal on the other hand will “host” the Philadelphia Union this Sunday at Red Bull Arena to open this next phase of play south of the border.


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