MONTREAL – “They were hurt like a tiger. And when a tiger’s hurt, it’s very dangerous.”
Montreal Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum knew that last Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to Toronto FC in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals, coupled with the Montreal fans’ protests on the weekend, had left marks on his players. Impotent in attack and badly dominated by their archrivals in an awful second half, the Impact players certainly lived up to their coach's analogy of a wounded animal.
But boy, did they bounce back.
“You don’t really need to say too much when you win a game 6-0,” captain Davy Arnaud told the media after Wednesday's second leg. “The score speaks for itself. Last week was one story, and today was a different story. And we were very good.”
Unable to shoot once on target last Wednesday, Montreal were ruthless as they peppered Stefan Frei’s net with 11 shots. A gutsy Daniele Paponi scored the series-tying goal before limping off with a hamstring injury that will likely keep him off the field for four to six weeks. Evan Bush finished the game with gauze up his nose.
“You saw a cup game,” Jeb Brovsky said. “You saw passion. You saw fight. Guys had bloody mouths and bloody knees. That’s what we play for.”
Added Schällibaum: “Tonight, they showed what they got, the character they have. You wake up every morning for games like these. Winning is good, but being hurt like we were last week and play such a game tonight, it’s really top level from my players.”
By his own account, the Swiss coach had already seen good signs on Saturday, when Montreal’s complete display earned them three points against the Chicago Fire. The weekend outing had shown Schällibaum the kind of will to win he’s been insisting on from day one.
The players, Schällibaum said, wanted to win this game “100 percent,” and their preparation work since the Chicago game showed. The wounded animal was playing possum, organizing its retaliation.
“Yesterday, I could already feel they were well,” Schällibaum reminisced. “There were good words exchanged. We were absolutely pumped up. If it comes out like that, all the better. It’s easy to say after you’ve won 6-0, but there are days like these.”