A lackluster first half made way for a more exciting last 45 minutes on Wednesday night as the Montreal Impact conceded a stoppage-time winner in the first leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal at FC Edmonton, who will bring a 2-1 advantage to the concluding leg at Stade Saputo on May 14.
Michael Nonni struck early in second-half added time, as Montreal center back Karl W. Ouimette missed a headed backpass to his goalkeeper, Evan Bush. Nonni pounced, blasting his shot home and jumping into the crowd.
Jack McInerney had opened the scoring for Montreal in the 56th minute, moments after hitting the crossbar with a header. From outside the penalty area, captain Patrice Bernier delivered a flawless dead-ball assist into the penalty area for McInerney, who nodded it home.
Hanson Boakai, the hero of Edmonton’s preliminary round win against Ottawa Fury FC, had a couple of first-half chances to torment Montreal, which he duly did in the 60th minute. Picking up the ball near the center circle, Boakai dribbled through the Montreal midfield and slipped the ball through to Tomi Ameobi, making a fine run in the right channel. Ameobi finished low past Bush.
Ameobi nearly found another seven minutes later, but he headed Boakai’s cross from the left over Bush’s net. Yet Edmonton boss Colin Miller withdrew Boakai and Ameobi in the 72nd and 79th minutes respectively, likely with this Saturday's NASL fixture at Indy Eleven in mind.
Impact coach Frank Klopas brought on DP midfielder Hernán Bernardello and Special Discovery signing Santiago González in a bid for a win and a second away goal, but Montreal had to make do with the one goal. McInerney flirted with a brace in the 78th minute, however, when he blasted a Calum Mallace cross over.
Despite the lateness of Nonni’s winner, FC Edmonton had time to get a penalty shout turned down just before the final whistle. They’ll thus bring a one-goal advantage at next week’s second leg at Stade Saputo, where Montreal will also host Sporting Kansas City in the interim in MLS action this Saturday, May 10.