The first was a test run, but the second of Hassoun Camara’s set-piece attempts delivered the Montreal Impact their eighth Voyageurs Cup.
The Frenchman’s ninth-minute diving header, it seemed, canceled out Camilo’s exquisite free kick that had given the lead to the Vancouver Whitecaps just four minutes into their Amway Canadian Championship final second leg at BC Place on Wednesday night.
But the assistant correctly flagged for offside, setting the tone for a half of disappointments for Montreal.
“I was sure I had it, because I was well marked by a defender,” Camara told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “He knew I was probably one of the tallest players for set pieces, so I absolutely had to get unmarked. I thought I’d done so, but when I saw the flag, I was really disappointed. But it didn’t let it bring my spirits down.”
Felipe did grab a quick equalizer early in the second half, on yet another brilliant first-time finish. But then Vancouver had to score to cancel out Montreal's away-goals advantage, and they duly obliged. It was a rare moment of utter defensive shambles in front of Evan Bush in the second half.
But sometimes, soccer gives you a second chance. And as eventual Man of the Match Justin Mapp’s greatly balanced delivery drew closer, Camara knew that it was there to be seized.
“When Justin hit it, I knew it was coming right at me,” Camara recalled. “He struck it so well. I absolutely had to make it. I was focused on putting it on frame.”
It capped off a much better second half than the first for Montreal. Were it not for posts and last-ditch clearances, they could have been 3-0 down at some point.
But tactics are about maximizing your percentages, independently of whether chances are eventually converted or not. And for Camara, head coach Marco Schällibaum deserves a tip of the hat for putting the team in such conditions that he could then score a cup-winning goal.
Camara dubbed it a “perfect night.”
“We were ready to suffer and put our game out there afterwards,” he said. “Maybe it surprised them that we played like that in the second half. It was great for us. From there, we created space, Felipe scored a nice goal and I scored the killer. Tactically and mentally, the coach was remarkable. It was as if he’d described the game to us before it took place.”