By Eve Powell // @evejulia9
Wednesday, July 18, 2018: 1-0 Win (Leg 1)
The Canadian Championship is a cup competition filled with mid-week matches, inter-league matches, and bench players earning some playing time. This year, it isn’t even being shown on TV. From an outside perspective, it probably doesn’t seem too important.
But it is. Winning the tournament and lifting the Voyageurs Cup trophy is the only way for Canadian soccer teams to secure a berth in the CONCACAF Champions’ League. The Montréal Impact know all too well the prestige, the excitement and the emotion associated with this competition, being part of a very small group of MLS teams to reach the CCL final, where they suffered a heartbreaking loss in 2015.
Head coach Rémi Garde and his staff are new to MLS, but they are familiar with the European equivalent, the UEFA Champions’ League. However, as the Impact seem to just be getting their season on track after a disastrous start, there was some concern about whether the coaching staff would accord the competition the importance that it has long held in the hearts of Impact fans and players.
Wednesday’s lineup for the first leg of the semi-final against the Vancouver Whitecaps left little doubt as to whether Garde took this competition seriously. Several key starters, including Saphir Taïder, Alejandro Silva, Rudy Camacho and Daniel Lovitz started the match. Samuel Piette donned the captain’s armband, and he was one of the required 3 Canadian players on the pitch along with Anthony Jackson-Hamel and Michael Petrasso.
Vous l’avez attendu, LE VOICI. Le XI partant de ce soir. ALLEZ MONTRÉAL
— Impact de Montréal (@impactmontreal) July 18, 2018
Despite a slight shakeup in the lineup, the Impact put forth another organized performance. A heavily rotated Vancouver squad, notably not featuring Canadian superstar in the making Alphonso Davies, only managed one shot on target during the entire match. After pressuring the Whitecaps’ defense for the majority of the game, Silva was rewarded with his second goal of the season in the 58th minute, after he started some give-and-go with Jeisson Vargas and Taïder at the top of the ‘Caps’ 18-yard box.
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) July 19, 2018
To further emphasize Garde’s desire to win, Ignacio Piatti made a substitute appearance, but the game would finish 1-0 for the Impact, marking their sixth consecutive win at home. As the cherry on the sundae, young Homegrown signing Matthieu Choinière received his first minutes as a professional player in the last 5 minutes of the match. Fans were just a little bit excited to see him make his début!
Indeed, many will feel that the 1-0 scoreline does not adequately reflect the team’s performance. In fact, Jackson-Hamel hit the post with a header, as well as the crossbar with what would have been a spectacular shot. However, the sense of mild disappointment with the scoreline is more a testament to the progress the team as a whole has made since the dark days of conceding 4 or 5 goals per match than to the underwhelming attack, which should soon receive an injection of quality with the all-but-officialised arrival of striker Jimmy Briand.
The Impact will continue to push through their busy month with a cross-country trip to the formidable Providence Park on Saturday, July 21st for an MLS match against the Portland Timbers. The West Coast visit wraps up with the return leg of the Canadian Championship semi-final in Vancouver on Wednesday, July 25th.
Featured image: @impactmontreal
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