MONTREAL – The Impact are going back to the CONCACAF Champions League.
A Felipe strike in second half stoppage time gave Montreal a 1-0 win over rivals Toronto FC on Wednesday night at Stade Saputo in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final. The 2-1 aggregate scoreline gave Montreal their second straight Voyageurs’ Cup after they beat Vancouver on away goals last year.
Montreal will thus join New York Red Bulls and Club Deportivo FAS, from El Salvador, in Group 3 of the CCL.
Both teams started the game on their heels, looking to capitalize on mistakes in midfield. Montreal, more content with a cautious game given their away goal last Wednesday in Toronto, were on the end of what few opportunities were actually created in the early goings.
A wayward header by Jack McInerney on a Hernan Bernardello corner kick announced something of a shift around the hour mark, however. Montreal grew into the game, producing missed chances for Marco Di Vaio from the run of play and Bernardello on a free kick.
Toronto held their breath shortly after the break when a Patrice Bernier cross dropped onto the crossbar, but the second half was largely theirs. The Impact needed several crucial interventions from defenders and midfielders tracking back after TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen introduced a third forward, Gilberto, who stayed up top with Jermain Defoe and Luke Moore.
This left Toronto more exposed, and Montreal managed to trouble their rivals a couple more times. After some fancy moves in the box, Andres Romero tested Reds 'keeper Joe Bendik with a low shot that bounced away for a corner in the 73rd minute while Hassoun Camara almost found the back of the net but nodded Bernardello’s free kick just over the bar in the 81st.
Both benches were visibly – and understandably – nervous in the last 10 minutes. Jonathan Osorio hit the post in the 83rd. Di Vaio missed an attempt in the 85th. Bernardello curled one wide in the 87th. Kyle Bekker came agonizingly close with a 90th-minute free kick.
But it was the Montreal staff and substitutes that let out a sigh of relief when Di Vaio rattled the crossbar a minute into stoppage time only to see the ball bounce for Felipe, whose half-volley won the tie for Montreal.
TFC are back in action this Saturday, June 7, when they host the San Jose Earthquakes at BMO Field. Montreal, for their part, play D.C. United at Stade Saputo next Wednesday, June 11 before MLS takes a two-week break for the World Cup.