A second half Kei Kamara penalty was to be the difference in the second leg of the Voyageurs Cup semi-final at BC Place on Wednesday evening, as Vancouver defeated Montreal 2-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate.
Yordy Reyna opened the scoring in the first half, while Stefan Marinovic claimed the Whitecaps’ first clean sheet since April 27th as Vancouver put out a near full strength side to claim their berth in another Canadian Championship final.
Kamara almost put the ‘Caps on top in the first ten minutes when he just missed deflecting a Russell Teibert pass into the net and the ball flew past the incoming Kendall Waston and past the far post.
Marinovic came up huge in the 16th minute as he got a hand to a Saphir Taider shot from in close, with the rebound being missed by Matteo Mancosu at the back post.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 26, 2018
It was a huge missed opportunity for Montreal to potentially put the tie to bed early on, and one which was to come back to haunt them soon after.
Three minutes later in fact, as the Whitecaps got on the board and levelled up the two game tie when Reyna converted a Jake Nerwinski cross to beat Clement Diop from 12 yards out with a neat finish.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 26, 2018
The Whitecaps nearly went up by two before the half hour mark with Cristian Techera sending his curling free kick off the bar, but neither team could find the decisive goal to break the deadlock and they headed in to the half all tied up on aggregate.
There was very little action in the opening minutes of the second half, with Vancouver controlling the play but unable to get a clear opportunity to go ahead and Montreal playing more in their shell and not wanting to make a mistake, know an away goal from them could kill things off.
That all changed when Marcel de Jong was brought down in the box, giving the ‘Caps an opportunity from the spot which was converted by Kamara on the hour mark, putting Vancouver up 2-1 on aggregate.
GOOOAAALLLLLL!!!!!!! Kei converts the PK and the 'Caps take the aggregate lead.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 26, 2018
The majority of the remaining 30 minutes saw the Whitecaps soak up the pressure from the Impact with a few excursions into the attacking third.
Vancouver almost put the game away in the 84th minute but Diop came up big to stop a shot from Techera and then Blondell sent the rebound just over the bar.
An even better chance for the home side came a couple moments later as Diop made a more spectacular save off the line, robbing Techera for a second time.
Was this to signal the turning point for Montreal? With Vancouver’s history in the tournament, you had to wonder.
As it turned out, those worries were unfounded and the Impact’s only chances in the final minutes came from distance, that either were sent wide or easily handled by Marinovic.
With the victory the Whitecaps advance to the two legged final against Toronto FC. They host the defending champions on August 8th at BC Place, before heading east a week later with a place in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League on the line.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 0 Montreal Impact [Vancouver win 2-1 on aggregate]
VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinovic; Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Doneil Henry, Marcel de Jong; Cristian Techera (Nicolás Mezquida 88), Aly Ghazal (Efraín Juárez 75), Russell Teibert, Brek Shea; Yordy Reyna; Kei Kamara (Anthony Blondell 79) [Substitutes not used: Brian Rowe, Sean Franklin, David Norman, Brett Levis]
MONTREAL: Clement Diop; Michael Petrasso, Victor Cabrera, Rod Fanni, Jukka Raitala, Daniel Lovitz (Alejandro Silva 63); Shamit Shome (Ken Krolicki 84), Samuel Piette, Saphir Taider; Matteo Mancosu (Ignacio Piatti 64), Jeisson Vargas [Substitutes not used: James Pantemis, Dominic Oduro, Mathieu Choinière, Clement Bayiha]
On the team’s character:
“Great character. Top performance by the boys. When you go through periods of a little bit of inconsistency, you find that out about yourself and your team. Someone asked me about my team’s character yesterday, and it irked me a little bit because the one thing you can never ever do is question the character of that group. We lack at certain things but not character.”
On closing out the match:
“We made it a little bit more uncomfortable for us. We should’ve scored a third goal but the goalkeeper made a wonderful save, and credit to him on that. It would’ve been a little bit more relaxed at the end but that away performance of losing 1-0 a week ago actually looks like a good result now, which is phenomenal.”
On individual performances across the board:
“I wanted some freshness in the team. I challenged a few of the players. There were two outcome-related points I brought to them, and they achieved both of them in that 2-0 victory. I thought there were a lot of individual performances that were top notch. That’s what we need to do. The reason we are inconsistent sometimes is we don’t perform to our levels. No matter who you play against, you should get results. We showed how good we could be against a very, very good team. I was confident in the boys and they showed what they’re all about.”
On inserting Kei Kamara:
“Kei did not talk his way into the lineup. Kei wanted to play but Kei wants to play every minute of every game. The focus was on this tournament and I said that last week. I put a team out with freshness and energy. We changed it a little bit today. I wanted to win the game and I thought putting Kei in would help us. That might change again on Saturday because three games in a week for older players is a little difficult. Kei was on the team because I wanted him on the team, not because Kei wanted to play.”
On the opening goal:
“The ball popped out to me, I won the header, Techera played a great ball down the line. I looked up and saw Kei take away two defenders, so I decided to cut it back and I was thinking it wasn’t that great of a ball, but Yordy made it look better so it was a great finish.”
On marking Ignacio Piatti:
“We all know he’s a great player, he’s one of the best in the league. I didn’t want to be naïve and try to dive in because that’s what he’s waiting for. I tried to keep him outside as much as I could and if he cut it I knew I had Kendall helping me out there. I think we did a good job us two, and Techera and Mezquida when he came in, I thought we kept him out of more dangerous situations.
On everything going on and the feeling of just playing a game and not thinking about everything:
“We talked about it before leading up to this game, leading up to this week. We just wanted to get this one, go back to basics, defend well and score goals and that’s exactly we did. I don’t know how many games it’s been since a clean sheet, we got it tonight and hopefully we can build off that.”
On trying to win trophies:
“I haven’t been there before, but this will be my first final. We set out to win championship and trophies and this is another trophy for us to win and we want to do that.”
Was this the kind of performance the team was needing to kickstart the season?
“We knew the importance of this win coming in. What it meant for this Canadian Championship but also making a run at the playoffs. We needed this result, we knew it was big, we needed a clean sheet for team morale. We did exactly what we set out to do, and this is something that can propel us on in the regular season.”
On the effort to get a clean sheet and forcing Montreal backwards:
“We’ve been criticized for not keeping clean sheets and we put a lot of emphasis on keeping the ball out of the back of our net. And we did just that. Stef made some key saves for us. But that’s what you need. You need 11 guys to step up to the plate and three to come off the bench. Everybody stepped up, played their roles, did their jobs and that’s why we got the result.”
On Alphonso Davies:
“The thing that impresses me the most about Alphonso is not what he does on the field. Obviously that wows a lot of people and he’s exciting to watch and play with. But the most impressive thing is that Alphonso Davies is the same person that I met from day one and that’s credit to his character. I can’t imagine many 17-year-olds going to Bayern Munich with that much publicity and headlines and will be the same person through and through and he’s stayed the same and will continue to do so.”
On playing Toronto FC:
“Lots being made of their regular season this year. You can talk a lot about them early on and the non-success they had. Teams go through certain spells, dips, highs and lows with performances. Like I said we’ve been criticized, but the core of this team is very strong and we are not a team that’s just going to fall apart. We are going to build off this performance and take it to the regular season and as well as Canadian Championship, we really want to win that trophy and be champs of Canada.”
On the importance of the Champions League:
“I think you’ve seen how far MLS has come in competing in CONCACAF. You have a team in Toronto FC in this past year that did almost win the whole thing. If we have that opportunity and we can win the Canadian Championship this year, that sets us up to do the same thing and follow in their footsteps, and maybe not just be in the final, but win the final.”
On missed opportunities, especially in the 16th minute:
““Yes, it could’ve been a moment. When you are away and on 16 minutes it would have been a strong boost for us. We didn’t score the chances. After that we had trouble to approach the target of Vancouver. We struggled a little bit, we had one or two more chances, and we didn’t score it.”
On playing young players:
“They are good players and they progress and improve a lot. They deserve to play in the team. But I know they are young players and MLS is a tough league. I can’t play 11 players for seven games in 22 days. It was opportunity for these kinds of players, they will learn from the games. We’ve got a young team. Shamit Shome and Michael Petrasso haven’t had so many games. Of course, they are not here to grow as individuals, we are here to win as a team, but you have to see positive things in this defeat.”
On playing a strong Vancouver lineup:
“We know all the players of Vancouver because we work on every team everytime we play against them. No, I was not surprised with their lineup”
On Vancouver’s adjustments:
“They didn’t change their tactic, it’s the same tactic.They changed their line-up and changed some players. The thing is we changed some players too, we have to be prepared, everyone is ready to go on the field here, so we did our best tonight but they didn’t change anything for me, they just changed some players, the tactic was the same – long ball and play the second ball.”
On the save versus Cristian Techera:
“We work on it in practice a lot and [goalkeeper coach] Joël [Bats] tells us always not to not be beat and always give everything 100 percent and try to make a save, so we work a lot on it in practice.”
On team’s goal moving forward:
“First off, we want to make the playoff, this is the goal of the team. So, that will be a different thing because there are a lot of games coming. So, we try to have the most wins as possible and finish the highest in the standing as we can.”
On difficulties tonight:
“Obviously in the first leg, we had much more attacking and much offense going, obviously we were at home. Coming here we only needed one goal to make it very difficult for them. I think we found it very hard to move up the pitch and obviously they came out strong and kept us in our own half and we obviously struggled with their height and their vantages. I think going into this game we needed one goal, it was unfortunate we couldn’t find the net to make it much more difficult for them.”
On needing more quality chances:
“Obviously coming into this game, we rested some of our key players, Ignacio [Piatti] and [Alejandro] Silva and they came on even in the second half. We needed to find more shots on target with their quality and I think that it was a bit unfortunate that he didn’t have much to do, the keeper, but if we had more going forward and had more shots, we could have took it to them but also defensively we could have kept a clean sheet or kept it 1-0 and kept the game going. So, I think all around we need to look on our weaknesses in this game and move forward”