MONTREAL – At least they didn’t concede an away goal.
By their own admission, Montreal hit “a wall” of Vancouver Whitecaps players in the Amway Canadian Championship final first leg on Wednesday night at Stade Saputo. Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie organized his side well, closing down space in the middle and preventing Montreal from travelling to Vancouver with a lead in their luggage, securing a 0-0 result ahead of the second leg on May 29.
But as coach Marco Schällibaum emphasized, not allowing Vancouver to score either was a positive and uplifting element in this story for his players.
“They did a great defensive job,” Schällibaum told the media after the 0-0 draw. “We lacked something to find a goal, but my team still gave everything. It was a very intense game on our part. The possession was something like 80-20. We didn’t score, but again, in the cup, not conceding is already not bad. We'll see in two weeks whether or not we have an answer.”
In what was ultimately a rather flat encounter, as both teams created few chances. But Montreal did try to send their fans home happy. They hogged the ball throughout the second half, and while possession was mostly sterile – on both sides, to be fair – there was nonetheless some sort of intent behind it.
The Impact do expect a more open game, with more attacking players in the Vancouver XI in the second leg than they fielded Wednesday.
“But they came for a positive result, which was not to concede,” midfielder Patrice Bernier told reporters. “We’re happy not to have conceded as well. We pushed in the end, we wanted to score, but it was a drab game with few chances on both sides. It was an okay game, but it means the next game is going to be exciting.”
But in this one, the ‘Caps came with a plan they executed to a tee. Looking at what his own team has done so far, especially in their breathtaking 6-2 aggregate ACC semifinal win over Toronto, Schällibaum can understand why.
“They showed a lot of respect for us,” Schällibaum said. “We’ve worked for that for weeks, so that teams show – not really fear – but respect. If they close down the channels like they did, they show respect for what we do.”