Fredy Montero returned to the Vancouver Whitecaps starting line-up with a point to prove against Montreal Impact at BC Place on Wednesday evening. By the final whistle it was certainly a point well made, with the Colombian seizing his moment to shine with a brace and an assist in a 3-1 Vancouver victory that lifted the Whitecaps to within two points of the Western Conference playoff places and ended Montreal’s hope of a spot in this year’s Canadian Championship final.
Montero scored a first half penalty and Cristian Dajome scored a rocket soon after to go in with a two goal lead at the break against a ten man Impact side that had seen Rudy Camacho sent off for an act of sheer stupidity when he lashed out at Montero in the box.
Romell Quioto pulled one back for Montreal just past the midway point of the second half before Montero grabbed his second of the night with a nice finish into the bottom corner to seal the three points for Vancouver.
As expected, Marc Dos Santos rang the changes after Sunday’s poor performance in a 4-2 defeat to Montreal. Six players moved out of the starting line-up, including suspended Designated Player Lucas Cavallini, who was hit by two additional fines today for his antics after his sending off at the weekend but no additional game bans added to the automatic one.
There were interesting aspects around many of those changes with Cristian Gutierrez replacing Ali Adnan at left back following his good substitute outing on Sunday, Ranko Veselinovic returning to the starting line-up to partner Derek Cornelius at the back, Janio Bikel making his first start in the Whitecaps midfield following injury, and the first start up front for Montero since August last year.
Thierry Henry made few subs on Sunday and he only made one change for this one from the team that came away with the win at the weekend, with Shamit Shome coming in for the suspended Emanuel Maciel, who got handed an additional one match ban following his horror tackle on Cristian Dajome.
MDS asked for “more concentration and awareness” in his pregame chat and he got it in the opening moments, with the ‘Caps looking a lot tighter and shutting down the Impact far quicker than four days ago.
Unfortunately that meant that as a viewing spectacle, this soon became a pretty insipid affair with neither keeper having a save to make through the first half hour.
Thomas Hasal finally had something to do in the 32nd minute when he tipped a dipping effort Orji Okwonkwo over. Montreal kept the pressure on from the subsequent corner and Luis Binks came close to breaking the deadlock when he threw himself at a Saphir Taider cross to the back post but headed wide.
Okwonkwo forced Hasal into another stop soon after, as the Impact seemed to suddenly get a boost from the chances they were creating.
But it was to be the Whitecaps who were to take the lead in this one and, much like Sunday, a moment of madness will undoubtedly be one of the match’s big postgame talking points.
Dajome caught Camacho on the knee in the box with a follow through on a Whitecaps break in the 36th minute. It probably should have been a foul but Drew Fisher didn’t call it. As the play went on Montero went over to pull Camacho up, but the Frenchman lashed out, striking the Colombian on his knee, resulting in not only a red card for the Impact defender, but a Whitecaps penalty.
🚨 RED CARD
— Last Word on Soccer (@LastWordSC) September 17, 2020
It was sheer idiocy for Camacho in such an important game for Montreal, but Montero cared little about that and after a four minute delay, the ‘Caps striker buried the spot kick to put Vancouver 1-0 up.
Three minutes later and that lead was doubled.
Montero got onto a long ball forward from Russell Teibert, holding his ball then sticking it between the legs of Fanni to send David Milinkovic up the left wing. The Frenchman cut inside, played the ball to Dajome and the Colombian fired a screamer past Clement Diop from the edge of the box.
Dreamland for Vancouver, nightmare central for Montreal.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) September 17, 2020
I can only imagine what Henry’s half time team talk was to his side. A bollocking and a half I’m sure. Whatever it was he said, it worked, and Montreal came out with a real fire in their bellies after the restart.
The Impact controlled the play and had a couple of half chances to reduce the deficit, without really testing Hasal. The Whitecaps had a few forays forward themselves without adding to their tally.
The game was now starting to resemble Sunday’s match, with the team down a man looking the far more dangerous side and the Impact’s pressure paid off in the 70th minute when Quioto pulled one back with a lovely turn in the box to get goal side of Veselinovic and blasted it powerfully past Hasal at his near post.
Things had suddenly got interesting but it also seemed to be the spark that the Whitecaps needed to take their own game to another level, and they restored their two goal lead eight minutes later.
Some nice interplay, and a bit of fortune, between Leonard Owusu and Montero saw the Colombian back his second of the night when he drilled the ball into the far corner for 3-1 ‘Caps.
📁 Let's check the "satisfying content" folder
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) September 17, 2020
And Montero nearly got his third moments later on a quick break, with Gutierrez streaking forward and playing the ball across to the striker, but his lob of the onrushing Diop fell agonisingly wide of the left post.
Montreal didn’t give up though and Bojan forced Hasal into a sprawling save to keep out his long range rocket in the last minute.
And that was all she wrote. A decisive and at time impressive win for the Whitecaps. Certainly a morale booster as they prepare to go on a three-game road trip, with many more set to come.
How much can you read into this one from a Vancouver point of view? Well it was a much better performance than Sunday, with a lot more passion, fight, and cohesion of what was being expected of them. The team looked like an actual team, playing the kind of football MDS is looking for and Montero looked sharp and to be the striker we’ve been crying out for (and had here all along, Covid travel issues aside).
You can counter that though by arguing that they were playing a very tired Montreal team that Henry had run into the ground over these last two matches, and only scored their goals once the Impact were down to ten men.
It’s genuinely hard to say just what you can take from this in terms of what the Whitecaps will look like going forward. We all hope for this, but we’ve had our fingers burned before.
Next up is a trip to Salt Lake City to face RSL. What will we see there? We’ll know by Saturday night. Let’s just hope we get that rarity of back to back wins, but history doesn’t bode too well for that.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 3 – 1 Montreal Impact
VANCOUVER: Thomas Hasal; Jake Nerwinski, Ranko Veselinovic, Derek Cornelius, Cristian Gutierrez; Janio Bikel (Michael Baldisimo 46), Russell Teibert, Theo Bair (Leonard Owusu 62), David Milinkovic (Ali Adnan 74), Cristian Dajome (Yordy Reyna 89); Fredy Montero (Tosaint Ricketts 89) [Subs Not Used: Bryan Meredith, Erik Godoy, Andy Rose, Ryan Raposo]
MONTREAL: Clement Diop; Zachary Brault-Guillard, Rudy Camacho, Luis Binks, Jukka Raitala; Victor Wanyama, Shamit Shome (Rod Fanni 43), Samuel Piette (Bojan 78), Saphir Taider, Orji Okwonkwo (Lassi Lappalainen 79); Romell Quioto [Subs Not Used: Evan Bush, Jorge Corrales, Joel Waterman, Karifa Yao, Amar Sejdic, Clement Bayiha]
Possession: VAN 52% – MTL 48%
Shots: VAN 13 – MTL 13
Shots on Goal: VAN 5 – MTL 4
Saves: VAN 3 – MTL 2
Fouls: VAN 8 – MTL 13
Offsides: VAN 3 – MTL 2
Corners: VAN 3 – MTL 3
MARC DOS SANTOS
On what was different tonight from the players:
“I also [credit] us working together as a staff, and with the players on recognizing every day what needs to be better. It’s a mix of everything. Then there was some players that have been answering very well in training. I know you guys, usually in a normal year, you guys come many times to training. And this year, you’re not able to because of COVID, but some of the guys have been just answering in a regular and consistent way in training. And that’s the answers we need to be confident to say, ‘This is the right mix this is the right build’ and analyzing. You know my relationship with the players is not, ‘We do this or this was wrong. This was right.’ It’s a relation of, ‘I think this, what do you guys think, where do we have to be better.’ I think that in this area and there’s discussions that allow us to grow as a team because everybody does it together.”
On Fredy Montero’s performance:
“Number one, Fredy. You know, he was even [upset] he was coming out. He was disappointed about coming out because he told me, ‘Man I wanted to go all the way’ because he was excited to play. Maybe he hasn’t been playing for a year in an official game. But let’s do the chronological situation here. So, number one, when there’s a lockdown and COVID and everything, even if you want to play, Fredy didn’t play, nobody played. When there was a lockdown, there was a lockdown. Then, for personal reasons, Fredy didn’t go to MLS is Back. So there’s another stop there. And then, when he comes, when we came back to training, it was so disjointed because it’s easy to give opinions and think we should have done this and that, but trust me guys, it was incredibly disjointed started March 10, March 11, when we went home then MLS is Back. Many didn’t go and then when we got back, we felt he wasn’t ready for the first trip. Maybe we were wrong. Maybe he had physically enough but we didn’t see that. And maybe we were wrong. But then, every time in training. I was seeing things in Fredy that ‘Man, he wants to contribute. He wants to help, he wants to show. He wants to change things. And then, when we got him back. He came in the last game very well. And I told them in front of the group, ‘Tomorrow, you’re starting, because you deserve to start, and you’ve done everything right to start.’ He came in and he had a fantastic game, he deserved even the hat trick. He impacted the game with the ball, he impacted the game in possession, he impacted the game in the chances created and the runs in the box and he has to be proud of that and it’s well done for him. There was portions in the game today that we lacked maturity. And you see it in Montreal, you know, you see that with Waymana, and even Bojan when he came in or even Taider. They have these older guys that know how to deal in some situations, and by the way, just before I go on with Fredy. Fredy, it was very clear what we wanted. We felt that in the movements, where he comes in the pocket, and he drags a player like Binks. There’s a lot of runs that could have been made in behind by Theo, Dajome, David. We wanted to play him as a kind of a false number nine, that gets away from the centre backs to create space for others. And at the same time, when he arrived late, he arrived in good spots within wanting to be with the centre backs and just stay there so I think that Fredy did everything right today, everything right and we have to give credit to his game on the ball. He was solid in the box, he was solid. And he definitely allowed the team to get the three points today.”
On Montreal Impact:
“Congrats to Montreal, I think it’s a team that you see building an identity, you see that it’s a team that know what they want to do and are going to keep growing. So congrats to Thierry on this job and congrats on him, with the job he’s done.”
On the homestand:
“Our ambition before coming in for the three home games was we have to get seven points minimum out of the nine. We believed we could get nine, but in our head, we must get minimum seven. We got six out of it, so it’s okay, it’s good. But we wanted those seven minimum. Today we deserved to win the game, the game Montreal won, they deserved to win.”
On upcoming trip:
“We’re leaving Friday, we’re training Friday and leaving and there’s not one player that told me that he’s not going so that’s not even a discussion. So right now everybody’s in and everybody’s available and everybody’s gonna help the team.”
On the difference tonight:
“I think we’re always trying to go out and do the same thing. We’re always trying to play with heart. We’re always trying to play with fight. And I think things just clicked tonight. We played well out of the back. We got opportunities, we got chances forward, and we capitalize on those chances and that’s the difference between winning games, and losing games.”
On keys for upcoming trip:
“Play with the same fight. The same togetherness. The same attitude that we had tonight of wanting to play forward, wanting to be the aggressor, wanting to take the game to the other teams. I know it’s gonna be tough because we are playing on the road for the remainder of the season. All of our home games being played at Portland. But that’s the thing, we need to fight together like we like we did tonight, stick together, stick to our game plan, and look to implement the same things we did today to capitalize on chances and when we’ll be okay. We just need to be a team that fights together now more than ever, especially going on the road for this long stretch.”
On Fredy Montero:
“I think Fredy was excellent when he came in today. He finished his chances. And he was influential to the team in a lot of different ways. He has a strong personality, and we’re happy for him with what he did tonight. We’re happy for the team performance tonight, Fredy was outstanding and we’ll need him going forward.”
On the team’s performance:
“The team tonight played very, very well, and I’m so happy to play in this team. Because when the team is playing like that it is very good to be in the field. Because when you take the possession, when you have so many opportunities to score, it’s is very good for me. I’m so happy and tonight, we win, and it’s important for the team for the confidence. And for the supporters because everyone before this game is a little bit nervous and it’s normal because you did not have the result what you want. But everyone worked very good in the training, and everyone tonight before the game is ready to go and to take the three points for the club, and the team started very well on the field. When you score the first goal …Fredy, I’m so happy for Fredy because tonight Fredy is coming back after a long time he’s not playing. And he scored two goals, he is one very good player, he’s an important player for the team. And I’m happy to give one more assist for the team to win tonight. And now I’m very confident for the next three games away against Real Salt Lak, LAFC, and Portland. I hope [we’re] playing this level, everyone, because if you play like that on Saturday, I’m sure you win and take three points for the club.”
On his relationship with head coach Marc Dos Santos and hugging him on the sideline:
“Marc, he’s one very good coach. I’m so happy to play for him because I have one very good relationship with him because the last season I don’t play at Hull City, and it’s a tough situation for me. Before I came here I promised to Marc when I come down when I have [the] opportunity to play I give 200 percent for him, for the team, for the supporters, and for the club. For me, my objective really is to be in the playoffs this season. Because in MLS, you lose two games you’re down, you win two games you’re in the playoffs. But now you have to be focused on Saturday to take three points. Me, I was coming on this club with very hard ambition. I’m sure this team have quality for playing in the playoffs, but you have 13 games more now to play. But I’m so confident and I like to play my best level for the coach because the coach gave me the opportunity to play. I’m so happy when I go on the field and I give one assists. And when I win I go directly to see the coach because he’s put me on the field. I’m so happy for playing for this club, it’s a big club. And I would like to go with this club in the playoffs, and I’m sure if we play at this level we’ll go to the playoffs.”
On playing in the middle:
“For me it is a very good feeling because I like this position. This is my game number three in this position for this club. I’m so happy because you touch so many balls and I’m one player [who is] very fast, I like to run to help my team to press the team. In this position for me is good because I have space, and if you see today the assist because I have space, Fredy give me one ball into space and go one-v-one, and I give it to Cristian Dájome and Dájome scores. This position for me is very good because you have so many balls. When you are in the winger you have to weigh the balls, but in this position you have the time when you come back in your half it is possible to take the ball to go one-v-one and to get one good ball for the counter-attack for me is good. I love this position, and I would like to play much better in the next game. Tonight I play good, but I would like to play much better. But tonight I’m happy because the team play very well, and I hope we win Saturday because for me it is very important.”
“We controlled the game in the second half. I loved our reaction. We took the game in our hands. But once again, we need to learn, hopefully sooner rather than later. We wanted the three points for the league standings. It would have been great to make the comeback, but it didn’t happen. Playing with 10 men was difficult.”
“We all knew what was at stake tonight. If we would have won, we would have qualified for the final. It’s very disappointing to us. And we lost the three points in the league standings. It’s on us tonight. I’m disappointed because we had the control of the game. In the last game, the collective was really good and we continued on that today.”
“Recently, there have been a few individual mistakes. We are disappointed by the result, but we won’t focus only on one player. Since I’m at the club, the last three or four games have been our best soccer. I have fun playing because we attack. I find myself in the box. The coach talks a lot with us. It’s a new system and we will be better if the collective works together.”