The Vancouver Whitecaps got their Champions League ambitions back on track last night with an excellent 2-0 win away to Montreal.
The Caps goal led a charmed life as Montreal hit the woodwork on several occasions and missed a complete sitter. The Impact side also found Vancouver keeper Jay Nolly on fine form and he played a complete blinder in a man of the match performance that saw him keep Montreal out time and time again with a string of top saves. I would go as far as to say that I don’t remember seeing Nolly have as good a game as he did last night.
Vancouver took the lead through two early goals from Marcus Haber and Charles Gbeke and although disappointing to see them sit back for so much of the match after going ahead, they did what they needed to do to take the points back home and still looked very dangerous on the break. The win has given the Caps a real chance of qualifying for their first Champions League campaign and if they can win their two home games, then that dream could very well become a reality.
For those unfamiliar with the CONCACAF Champions League, it is the new format for the old Champions Cup which began in 1962. Comprising of 24 teams, the new look format began last year and consists of qualifying rounds, a preliminary round, a group stage and then knockout matches from the quarter finals onwards. The overall winner get to represent the CONCACAF region in the Fifa World Club Championship, so ultimately Vancouver could get to square off against Man United.
Canada are afforded one spot in the competition, the same as the likes of Nicaragua and Belize, whereas Mexican and American clubs can claim four places each. It kind of shows how low down the pecking order Canadian football is by CONCACAF but it’s up to the Clubs to prove them wrong and Montreal did just that with their run to the quarter finals last season. Canada’s cause isn’t helped of course by only having the three Clubs competing for that one place, so things aren’t likely to change any time soon until more professional Clubs in the country can be taken on board.
It’s certainly a competition that has grabbed me however. The excitement generated by the Canadian Championship games against Montreal and Toronto, for me, surpasses that of League business, although actual League games are devalued anyway with the farcical play offs in place.
Vancouver may have their destiny in their own hands, which is always nice, but goal difference could be an overall factor depending on how Toronto perform at home to Montreal in the last match. Let’s just hope that the decision to sit back and not increase their tally in Montreal doesn’t come back to bite them.
That’s looking well ahead of course, there’s the small matter of two home wins on the next two Wednesdays to take care of first of all.
That done and it could very well be the case of “Champions League and we’re having a laugh” in Vancouver and the prospect of off season football is a very pleasing one.