The Whitecaps drew first blood in their first leg of the Canadian Championship semi-final as they defeated the Impact 1-0 at Stade Saputo. It was clear from the naming of the starting eleven that Teitur and the Caps were just not going for a result but a win. Nine of the game’s starters were part of the eleven that opened the season against TFC with Akloul and Wagner in place of Koffie and DeMerit. Not only do the Whitecaps come away with a victory but they picked the important away goal.
The Impact came from the outset looking to strike early as they poured in crosses into the box looking for striker Ali Gerba. The most dangerous cross occurred about the 16th minute when Kreamalmayer crossed in from the right wing that was snatched by Jay Nolly. The Caps best opportunity came in the 20th when Camilo struck a ball from outside the box that Bill Gaudette acrobatically tipped over the bar. Just before halftime Ali Gerba was sent in on a long ball that he was unable to gather as he fired the ball into the side. Montreal came close again in injury time when a strike from distance by former Whitecap Zourab Tsiskaridze just went wide which sent both teams to halftime scoreless.
The second half started with the Whitecaps applying more pressure as they pushed to get the first goal in the match. Hassli had a great opportunity in the box but fired the ball low where Gaudette was able to make the stop. Another opportunity was a corner a few minutes later by Russell Teibert that was headed by Mouloud Akloul but was snatched by Gaudette again. Just two minutes later the Whitecaps found the back of the net as Teibert sent in a cross from just outside the box that perfectly headed in by Captain Terry Dunfield in the 67th minute. There were a few tense moments in the final minutes but the Whitecaps were not in any major danger of losing the lead.
With the national coach Stephen Hart in the stands it was only fitting that the two of the strongest players on the pitch connected for the goal as Canadian Russell Teibert set up the header for fellow Canadian Terry Dunfield. In fact Teibert with his runs down the left side was the man of the match in my opinion as he gave the right side of the Impact fits all game long. Mouloud Akloul made his first start at CM a year and three days after his last where he broke his ankle and was lost for the year. While it was apparent his touch was missing, Akloul's ball winning allowed Dunfield to sneak up into the final third. Another Whitecap made his debut for the team as Shea Salinas was brought on as a substitute in the 78th minute and may see some more time on the weekend.
After gaining the victory and the one goal aggregate lead the Whitecaps will return for the second leg at Empire Field next Wednesday. The teams will be on equal footing as both the Impact and the Whitecaps will have a league match this weekend with the Caps in Columbus on Saturday and Montreal traveling out west to face FC Edmonton. While the Impact have had some success playing in Vancouver, those games were at Swangard and not at Empire in front of 20,000 which will be a definite home advantage. A similar effort will hopefully be able to see the Whitecaps into the finals and exercise the demons of 2009.