It was, Impact head coach Frank Klopas said, “two different games.”
The Montreal Impact lost 2-0 (4-2 on aggregate) to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday night at BC Place in the second leg of the 2015 Amway Canadian Championship final. And for Klopas, the ejection of center back Victor Cabrera in the 30th minute for a second bookable offense was the one turning point.
“The first one wasn’t even a foul,” Klopas told reporters postgame. “Not even a yellow. The linesman calls it from the side. It’s a final. [Laurent] Ciman makes a first foul, he’s the captain, and he gets a yellow card. Come on. It’s unfortunate, because I think that both teams came to play. Then, the game changed.”
Whether Cabrera pulled down Octavio Rivero for his first caution or not, as the referee crew headed by Silviu Petrescu deemed that he did, the net result is that the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League finalists won’t play in the competition again until at least the 2017-18 edition.
Montreal players picked up four bookings in nine minutes – two in eight for Cabrera. Nigel Reo-Coker dropped from central midfield to right back to complete the makeshift backline. It was his ill-advised looping back pass, with an onrushing Cristian Techera capitalizing, that paved the way for Rivero’s opener.
“If it’s 0-0, yeah, we keep things organized, but then you have to push the game, you take more risks and you’re more open,” Klopas said. “Regardless, the whole game changed, for me, after the 30-minute mark, when the second yellow to Cabrera changed the whole game.”
The Impact’s first 30 minutes weren’t bad, but they didn’t lead to the one thing that was required in Vancouver: scoring. The Whitecaps’ two away goals in the first leg draw gave no other choice to Montreal, who shot twice in the first half-hour but didn’t place one on target – and they didn’t for the rest of the game, either, through seven more attempts.
“We wanted to make sure we defended well in the middle,” Klopas said of his team’s play in the first 30 minutes. “We didn’t give them opportunities in transition. They had the one chance early in the game, and I think the game was settled: there were moments where we had the ball, we moved the ball well, but I think that everything changed after [the red card]. Congrats to Vancouver. In the end, they won it.”