The Sweeper: Montreal Impact Win USL-1 Crown

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The Montreal Impact defeated the defending champions Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 at Stade Saputo yesterday to win the USL-1 Final 6-3 on aggregate.  First half goals from Tony Donatelli, Joey Gjertsen and Roberto Brown were all Montreal needed to win, although Vancouver defender Shaun Pejic’s controversial red card in the 29th minute for hauling down the last man in the area probably helped a mite.

Although there was some controversy concerning calls made in both legs, few could deny that on the basis of Montreal’s 6-0 post-season record they didn’t deserve their two-leg win.  The storyline this year leading up to yesterday’s first all-Canadian final though is beyond belief.  It was only back in March of this year when, after winning the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Mexican club Santos Lagunas, Montreal gave up four goals in forty minutes to lose 5-4 on aggregate.

It was the sort of loss that can throw clubs into total chaos, and it seemed for much of this year that Montreal were heading down that road.  After posting a worst-ever opening season record in May which led to coach John Limniatis getting sacked and replaced with assistant coach Marc dos Santos, things went from bad to worse after Montreal suffered a horrible 6-1 defeat at home to Toronto FC in the Nutrilite Championship.  The defeat handed Canadian CONCACAF qualification from the Vancouver Whitecaps to Toronto FC, the latter club needing to score a seemingly impossible four goals or more to go through.

Football being football, somehow the Impact found the “mental toughness” to ignore past failures and on-going league turmoil to win the Division 1 championship.  Liverpool FC fans, take note.

Worldwide News

  • In case you didn’t know, Liverpool FC lost 1-0 to Sunderland from a Darren Bent strike that should have counted as a Liverpool beach ball own-goal. The Guardian’s John Ashdown reminds everyone that the rules state the goal should have been disallowed.  So with all the renting of garments over a silly beach ball, why is Rafa Benitez the only one pointing out that Liverpool actually didn’t play very well?  Or that it was the same Sunderland that narrowly missed out on defeating Manchester United at Old Trafford?
  • Heading into MLS‘s final stretch, figuring out all possible playoff qualification outcomes is giving the stat crunchers an MLS Cup-sized migraine.  As the 24thminute points out, teams chasing the final playoff spots basically have to win away from home to keep their seasons alive.  Best not think about tie-breakers…
  • Back to the Guardian now and Paul Wilson’s piece on Birmingham City‘s owner, Carson Yeung, and why flashing wads of transfer money isn’t always a good idea: “McLeish, not exactly accustomed to throwing money around, is going to have to both persuade players to take a chance on Birmingham, while insisting to selling clubs and agents that he is not prepared to go above a certain price.”
  • Media naval gazing corner: Andrew Buscholtz at Sporting Madness is doing an excellent job reporting back on a sport blogging conference in Las Vegas.  Of particular interest is his latest installment on increasing blogger access to professional team, even if some clubs grant it so that bloggers, as one panelist mentioned, can become better “brand evangelists” for a particular club.  Missing from the debate is any mention of the further degradation of living wage sports journalism.
  • If the future of African football needed a boost heading into the World Cup in South Africa this summer, it sure got it when Ghana beat Brazil 4-3 on penalties after 0-0 scoreline after 12o minutes in the U20 World Cup final yesterday.

Richard Whittall writes the no-access blog A More Splendid Life.

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