MONTREAL, QC – For the first time since 2014, and just the second time under the tournament’s current format, Vancouver Whitecaps FC will not play in the final for the Voyageurs Cup.
The ‘Caps were eliminated from this year’s Canadian Championship with a 4-2 loss to Montreal Impact on Tuesday night in the second leg of the semifinal, which gave the Impact a 5-4 victory on aggregate over the two legs.
And, as is always the case with this competition, it wasn’t for a lack of a drama.
Montreal took a 3-0 lead into halftime thanks to a pair of Ignacio Piatti penalties and a 38th-minute marker from Blerim Dzemaili.
But the ‘Caps did not go down without a fight.
Alphonso Davies, who had a goal and an assist in last week’s first leg, and Kyle Greig both found the back of the net in a thrilling second half. Unfortunately for the Blue and White, however, Anthony Jackson-Hamel’s 61st-minute goal would be the eventual winner.
Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson made 10 changes to his starting lineup after Saturday’s defeat to D.C. United. The only player who started both matches was centre back Tim Parker, as Robinson once again shuffled his squad as he did in last week’s 2-1 first leg victory.
The Impact, on the other hand, fielded a near first-choice lineup after having the weekend off, but the visiting ‘Caps actually looked the livelier side in the early going. Nicolas Mezquida had a couple early opportunities and looked to have another in the 10th minute before going to ground on a heavy tackle from Marco Donadel, which drew the ire of Robinson and his bench.
The ‘Caps looked quite comfortable in the game up until the 19th minute, at which point Montreal won a penalty through Jackson-Hamel.
The young Canadian found some space behind Vancouver’s back line before attempting to round goalkeeper Spencer Richey, who got a piece of the striker to concede the penalty. Piatti took care of the rest, placing the spot kick into the bottom left corner.
Montreal’s star midfielder converted a second penalty just eight minutes later.
This time, Piatti won the PK himself after Laurent Ciman picked him out at the top of the box on a clever free kick. The Argentine was then adjudged by referee David Barrie to be fouled by a Mauro Rosales slide tackle, before slotting the ensuing penalty into the bottom right corner just beyond Richey’s outstretched arms.
Finally, the Impact added a third goal in the 38th minute through Dzemaili, who fired home a low strike from 12 yards after a failed ‘Caps clearance.
It was a nightmare first half for the Blue and White, but it was a different story after the break.
Davies got Vancouver on the board in the 59th minute with an off-balance strike just inside the area after some fine work by Jake Nerwinski down the right.
All of a sudden, the ‘Caps were right back in it.
They were delivered another blow just two minutes later, however, when Jackson-Hamel finished a cross from close range. But once again, Robinson’s side fought their way back into the match – this time with a fine header from Greig in the 77th minute on a cross from Cristian Techera.
That made the aggregate score 5-4 for Montreal, and despite some relentless pressure from Vancouver in the dying stages, that is how it would end.
Montreal will now face either Ottawa Fury FC or Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship Final at the end of June, while Whitecaps FC will shift their focus squarely to league play. Next up for Vancouver is a first-ever meeting with high-flying expansion side Atlanta United FC on Saturday afternoon at BC Place (2:30 p.m. PT