It is an East-West Canadian affair as the Montreal Impact (2-2-4, 9th in Eastern Conference) receive the Vancouver Whitecaps (7-2-5, 2nd in West) at Saputo Stadium on Wednesday, June 3. Kickoff will be at 8:00 local.
Seasons So Far
Playing for 90
Montreal have been struggling through a CONCACAF Champions League hangover. They were wildly successful in the continental competition, coming the closest any Major League Soccer franchise has to winning the prestigious tournament. Since exiting the CL, they have gone 2-2, scoring seven goals, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. However, there is some bad news. The league helped the Impact out by moving many of their matches to the end of the year to avoid getting in the way of the CL. This will mean a high number of games in August and September and having already gone far in CONCACAF and in the Canadian Championship, it looks to be a tough (and tiring) season ahead.
Fresh off their first ever postseason birth, Vancouver are turning heads in the Western Conference. In fact, they have scored more goals at home than the Seattle Sounders, who are noted for their great performances in front of their home crowds. Unfortunately, the Whitecaps don’t travel well, scoring one goal in their six road games so far. If they had tightened things up away from BC Place, they could easily be atop the table. Vancouver are also leading the league in shots by a mile, with almost 200 in only 14 games. Unfortunately, they haven’t been transitioning into goals, as they are only ranked seventh in goals for.
Players To Watch
MTL – Ignacio Piatti: Jack McInerney is leading the club in scoring, but he owes this man a steak dinner or two. Since arriving from his native Argentina in July, Piatti has been on a tear. Although he has all of two goals in the league this season, ‘Nacho’ was a hero in the Champions League, putting up two goals and three assists, all in intense knockout stage games. Piatti looks well on his way to regaining the form that saw him get four goals in his first six MLS matches.
VAN – Gershon Koffie: At the beginning of the season, it looked like Koffie had perhaps fallen out of favor with his manager, Carl Robinson. He was being used sparingly and had to watch three straight games from the press box. Robinson seems to have regained faith in the 23-year-old Ghanaian and started him in two consecutive games for the first time since March. Koffie rewarded his manager by scoring a go-ahead goal on the weekend to help Vancouver to a 2-1 victory and was selected to the MLS Team of the Week for his efforts.
MTL – Evan Bush: Since getting the Impact net to himself midway through 2014, Bush has been steadily gaining confidence. His goal kicks have greatly improved and he has emerged as one of the best ‘keepers in the league at defending crosses in his box. Looking at the number of shots Vancouver puts on net per game (5.2) and the American’s save percentage (.750), it could be a long night for the 29-year-old.
VAN – Octavio Rivero: The new boy from Uruguay is impressing in his first season in North America. Rivero is largely responsible for the Whitecaps’ astronomical shot totals, because he is leading the league in shots. And he’s not just wildly thrashing in the general direction of the net either – he is second in shots on target. He was off to a hot start to the year, scoring five goals in hist first six games, but has since cooled off, getting a lone marker in his eight appearances since.
MTL – Patrice Bernier: The skipper has been used exclusively as a stopper to close out games. With the exception of his lone start, the longest the now 35-year-old has been on the pitch is 14 minutes. However, Marco Donadel has been suspended after getting two yellows last week, so perhaps Bernier will make his second start of the year.
This is the only time the two clubs will meet in league play this year, but they are scheduled to faceoff in the Canadian Championship Final. Montreal qualified by beating Toronto FC on away goals, while the Whitecaps squeaked out a victory against NASL side Edmonton FC.
The Canadian Championship matches will take place in August.
The two clubs have a long and storied rivalry prior to joining the big league. The two memorably clashed in the 2009 USL Championship Final in which Montreal came away champions 6-3 on aggregate. It was that championship that sparked whispers of Montreal moving to Major League Soccer.
Vancouver has never lost to Montreal in MLS, winning twice (including the Impact’s first ever game in the league in 2012) and drawing once. Last season, the Whitecap-Impact rivalry was renewed at BC Place and ended in a 0-0 draw.
Montreal has been riddled by injuries, most notably to their back line. Veterans Adrian Lopez and Hassoun Camara both have knee injuries. Bright, young wing-backs Eric Miller (hamstring) and Victor Cabrera (ankle) won’t be dressing. Star midfielder Justin Mapp won’t be playing until at least July after suffering a gruesome elbow dislocation in the club’s first MLS game. The statuses of fellow midfielders Andres Romero (groin) and Dilly Duka (head) are uncertain.
And, you guessed it, their forwards have also picked up knocks. Freaky Fast Dominic Oduro (groin), new signing Kenny Cooper (knee) and Champions League hero Cameron Porter (knee) are all out.
Unlike there counterparts at the other end of the country, Vancouver has not been bitten too hard by the injury bug. Midfielders Andre Lewis (knee) and Marco Bustos (foot) are both out indefinitely. Sam Adekugbe, a dependable 20-year-old defender for the Whitecaps, has been out since the beginning of May with an ankle injury.
Impact defensive midfielder Marco Donadel has been suspended for the match after picking up two yellow cards in the first half of a 3-0 loss to the Chicago Fire on May 30th.
Armando Villarreal will take charge of the game. The American is now in his fourth season on the MLS staff and was assigned to the 2014 U.S. Open Cup Final. Canadian Joe Fletcher, whose missed handshake at the 2014 World Cup garnered him international fame, will be on one touchline while Scott Kachmarik will be opposite him. Alex Chilowicz is working the board.
Kickoff is at 8:00PM Eastern (five o’clock Pacific time). It has been wet and cold in the first few days of June in Montreal, but that should change on Wednesday. The weather report is calling for sunny weather with a high of 21 degrees (70 Fahrenheit). With the game starting just after sunset, expect the temperature to drop.
The match will be broadcast across Canada on TSN (channels 1 and 5). It will be interesting to see whether they feature it officially as “Whitecaps soccer” or “Impact soccer” after The Sports Network snubbed Montreal earlier in the year. Fans in Canada wishing to watch in French can tune in on RDS. Impact supporters can listen in to the match on TSN 690 (in English) and 98.5FM (French). Fans out West can find the game on TSN 1410.