It wasn’t as pretty as the beautiful game gets, but the Vancouver Whitecaps were happy to walk out of Stade Saputo with a scoreless draw against the Montreal Impact in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final.
The results sets up a second-leg encounter with all to play for at BC Place on May 29, where the club is enjoying a strong 3-0-2 home start in league play.
“Obviously it would have been nice to have nicked one of the chances that we had in the first half, but I think the defending was very good,” head coach Martin Rennie told the Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following the match. “We were well organized, and it puts us in a good position going into the [second leg].”
Rennie opted to send out an unconventional lineup as he tried to remedy the club’s poor road play against MLS-level opposition – the ‘Caps entered the match with an 0-4-1 away record.
Brad Knighton replaced Joe Cannon in goal, Nigel Reo-Coker played at right back rather than in midfield, Jordan Harvey came in at left back, with Alain Rochat, normally the starting left back, pushing into midfield. Normally a center back, Brad Rusin played as a holding midfielder with Matt Watson also coming into the side.
The only fully attack-minded players in the starting XI were forward Darren Mattocks and midfielder Russell Teibert – and it seems the unorthodox choice of lineup was even a mystery to the players themselves.
“Personally it caught me a little bit by surprise,” Watson told TEAM 1410. “I didn’t expect that lineup, but I think when you look at the players, especially players like Nigel, he has so much experience, so it’s not a big deal for him to play in other positions.
“And I think that’s the case with a lot of the guys – as much as they may prefer to play somewhere else, they’re more than capable of playing in other positions and they showed that tonight.”
As for the coach, he’s hoping his latest lineup juggling act pays dividends on Saturday against the Portland Timbers with several players given a rest.
“Some guys that were rested tonight will start against Portland, and then a couple of players who played tonight but didn’t play against LA Galaxy [last weekend] will come into contention,” Rennie said. “I think we’ll be fresh and ready to go.”