MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact's first leg game against Toronto FC was delayed for 30 minutes due to a field maintenance issue, requiring the penalty boxes to be repainted at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.
So after all of that, with Montreal managing a 3-2 home win, how did both teams view the issue and subsequent delay?
Well, Impact striker Didier Drogba, for one, chose to describe the error as "impressive."
Meanwhile Richard Legendre, Montreal's executive VP of soccer operations, said that incorrect placement of the white lines was a “human mistake” made by the team's customary crew that prepares the field. He said the Impact took full responsibility for the mistake, which he said resulted in narrower penalty areas by “close to two meters on each side.”
“It's of course something that never happened [before], and that we will make sure that it doesn't happen again,” he said. “We're going to have to put in place additional measures to check and double-check, of course, the dimensions. Essentially, it was noticed by the officials when they came on the field around 7:10 pm and measured it more precisely and saw the mistake.”
Montreal coach Mauro Biello said his team took the problem in stride.
“I told the guys there was a delay and that they were sorting it out, and we stayed loose in the locker room,” he said. “Once we found out how much time before kickoff, we did just a little activation in the dressing room and got the players ready.”
Toronto coach Greg Vanney said no one on his team had an inkling that there was anything wrong with the lines until the officials discovered the error.
“It was a complete surprise,” he said. “I think the venue change [from Stade Saputo to Olympic Stadium] changes a lot of things. It means that you've got to do a lot of other preparation and the stadium and the field should have been dealt with and standardized long ago, not tonight.”
Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush, for his part, had a feeling that something was off with the placement of the lines before the mistake was discovered.
“I do side-to-side warm ups through the box and I could sense that it felt a bit shorter, just because I'm very routine-oriented in what I do and I sensed that it felt a bit short,” he said. “I didn't say anything and I saw them walking the lines and counting it off, and I was just hoping they didn't do anything because it's certainly probably a bit of an embarrassing situation.”
But he had no regrets about not passing along his observation to anyone else.
“It didn't really affect us," Bush said. "Obviously we got off to a good start, so from that standpoint it didn't hurt us at all. I didn't want to get out of my mindset by saying anything to the ref. It wasn't my job to do so and it was their job and they figured it out so that's well done by them.”
Meanwhile, Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley didn't completely rule out gamesmanship on Montreal's part as an explanation for the delay, though he ultimately downplayed its potential impact on the final result of the game.
“Probably not totally out of the realm of possibilities that they did it on purpose, maybe?” Bradley said. “Add to the drama of it all? I don't know. In the end, it was a great night for the league, the two cities. Are there things everybody would hope or wish to be different? Probably. It doesn't take away from anything.”