MONTREAL – Winning the Voyageurs Cup against archrivals Toronto FC at Stade Saputo. It’s all the Montreal supporters had hoped for a long time, having won the competition twice – in its current format – away from home.
The synergy between players and supporters at the final whistle on Wednesday night said it all: both wanted it just as badly, and the Impact players did raise the trophy after they beat Toronto 1-0 (2-1 on aggregate) in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship.
As wonderful as the end of this ACC journey was for Montreal, this was not the end, head coach Frank Klopas suggested. With a trophy to show for their efforts despite their struggles in the league, the ‘real’ Montreal Impact are on their way, both in CCL and in MLS.
“Regardless of how we started the season, I know sometimes things take time,” Klopas told reporters postgame. “You need to get results, but my group never lost faith in what we were doing. We stuck together as a team. This was one of their goals. We have a long way to go in the season. And we’re right there.
“But the confidence, winning some games, has made us even stronger,” Klopas continued. “And I can tell you one thing: it’s not going to be easy to come here playing against us – or even on the road – because we’re going to be a committed group.”
A 4-3 loss to Colorado in the summer of 2013 had gnawed at the Stade Saputo fortress. Brick by brick, Montreal have started rebuilding it in the last two games with clean sheets against quality sides.
The road to Wednesday night’s triumph was bumpy, team captain Patrice Bernier conceded. But it's helped Montreal regroup.
“I think we’re a little bit more confident in [who we want to be] on the field,” Bernier told reporters. “The character we’ve shown, we’ve set a standard that we have to maintain.”
Added defender Hassoun Camara: “For a few games, we’ve felt like we’ve done well, performance-wise. The results haven’t always been the best, but we feel change. The last two games, we’re good. We’re a good team. We’ve shown what we can do against good teams like Toronto or New England.”
And Klopas trusts that his players can seize the moment on the continental stage.
“I’m very proud of the guys. I think this is a special night not only for the group, but for Montreal,” Klopas said before adding, with his best French accent, “for Montréal.”