Impact claim Canadian Champions League
All hail the Montreal Impact, the undisputed kings of Canadian soccer.
In the biggest game in either franchise's history, the Impact claimed the Canadian Champions League title by earning a 1-1 tie with Toronto FC Tuesday night at BMO Field in the finale of the three-team tournament.
Roberto Brown's goal in the 26th minute was all the offence Montreal needed, as it allowed the Impact to win the Canadian club championship.
By virtue of winning the tournament, the Impact also clinched a berth in the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League, where it will face Nicaraguan champions Real Esteli in the preliminary round next month.
"My players are warriors, well done to all of them," Montreal coach John Limniatis told reporters after the game.
Impact goalkeeper Matt Jordan, who was named the tournament's most valuable player, said it was a "total team effort" that helped Montreal win the competition.
Though not exactly a case of David slaying Goliath, Tuesday's result is a bit of a surprise when you consider the stature of both clubs: Toronto FC plays in Major League Soccer, the top pro league in North America, while Montreal competes in the United Soccer League First Division, one level below MLS.
Montreal, which only needed a tie on Tuesday, claimed the title with seven points, ahead of Toronto (five points) and fellow USL-1 club, the Vancouver Whitecaps (four points).
Attitude frustrates coach
Toronto coach John Carver said Montreal deserved to win the tournament, while at the same time expressing frustration with the attitude of some of his players.
"What disappoints me is I heard one or two of our players talk about Montreal playing in a lower league, and that's rubbish; it's absolute rubbish … It's not a lower league," Carver said.
Montreal's Patrick Leduc echoed Carver's sentiments.
"There's a lot of talk about the difference between the MLS and the USL, but let me tell you, the leagues aren't that different," the Impact captain said.
Montreal's David Testo threatened to score inside the first minute, but Toronto quickly took control of the game and applied constant pressure before breaking down the Impact defence in the 15th minute.
After receiving a beautiful chip pass from Laurent Robert, captain Jim Brennan delivered a perfect cross into the middle for Rohan Ricketts, who out-jumped a Montreal defender to nod the ball home.
Toronto's lead lasted only 11 minutes.
Joey Gjertsen whipped a dangerous corner kick deep inside the box, and Brown scored with a powerful header to make it 1-1.
The Impact nearly scored off another corner kick early in the second half, but couldn't convert after Toronto goalie Greg Sutton mishandled the cross.
Needing a goal, Toronto picked up the pace and attacked with greater purpose, pinning the Impact inside their half for long periods of time.
Montreal's bend-but-not-break defence was equal to the task, though, calmly soaking up the pressure and thwarting Toronto's forwards at every turn.
The Impact launched a quick counterattack and should have scored on a 2-on-1 break in the 60th minute.
This time, Brown's accuracy in front of the Toronto net was lacking and he pushed his shot wide of the post.
Jeff Cunningham came on as a substitute for 16-year-old Ibee Ibrahim midway through the second half, but the veteran striker failed to give Toronto's attack any kind of a spark.
Dangerous free kick
Toronto carved out one last scoring chance in the 88th minute when Amado Guevara sent a dangerous free kick into the box and rookie Julius James headed it off the post.
A mad scramble ensued, and the ball fell perfectly for Cunningham who somehow couldn't score from inside the six-yard box with a wide open net staring him in the face.
Carver was clearly upset with Cunningham's lack of finish.
"Seeing that — it makes me wonder how he's scored 99 goals in this league," Carver said of Cunningham.
Toronto's BMO Field will stage this year's MLS all-star game on Thursday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET), when the league's best, including David Beckham, face English side West Ham United.