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Late Goal Drops Whitecaps

September 9, 2009 - USL First Division (USL-1) - Vancouver Whitecaps News Release


Vancouver Whitecaps FC suffered a very late 1-0 away defeat to Canadian rivals Montreal Impact on Wednesday evening.

Impact substitute Peter Byers struck in time added on at the end of the match, as Montreal completed a sweep of all three USL First Division regular season contests versus the Whitecaps in 2009. Though they rode their luck at times at Montreal's Stade Saputo, the Blue and White will be very disappointed not to have claimed a draw from their efforts in Quebec.

The result leaves the defending USL-1 champions still in need of a point from their final two regular season matches to secure their place in the playoffs, with the Whitecaps seeing their seven-match unbeaten streak come to an end after the midweek loss. Vancouver remain in seventh place and the final postseason berth in the USL-1 standings with a record of 9W-10L-9D. Victory for the Impact, meanwhile, saw them extend their unbeaten streak to six matches, with Montreal leapfrogging Rochester Rhinos into fifth place in the league standings with a record of 12W-10L-6D.

Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson made one change to the side that started last Friday's 1-1 draw at Minnesota Thunder. That change came on the left-hand side of midfield, as Tyrell Burgess replaced Ansu Toure.

Impact head coach Marc Dos Santos, meanwhile, made six changes to the side that started last Saturday's 2-1 victory at Cleveland City Stars. Four former Whitecaps players were included in those changes. Tony Donatelli, Joey Gjertsen, and David Testo all came into Montreal's midfield, while experienced goalscorer Eduardo Sebrango partnered Roberto Brown in the home side's attack. A fifth ex-Whitecaps player in Srdjan Djekanovic started in goal for the home side. Wednesday's match was also Gjertsen's 100th start in USL-1.

On a dry and windy evening in Montreal, a Stade Saputo crowd of 11,867 saw the home side dominate the first half, having created all of the chances before the break.

The first real chance of the half fell to the Impact on three minutes. After Kenold Versailles had struck a shot high and wide of the target for Vancouver, Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly made a fine point-blank save from Sebrango's close-range shot after the Cuban beat defender Shaun Pejic in the 'Caps box. The rebound fell kindly to Donatelli, but his effort flew high and over the crossbar from inside the six-yard box.

Montreal kept pressing and created another chance on 13 minutes. Gjertsen's cross from the right was flicked on by Sebrango to Leonardo Di Lorenzo, who drilled a low shot just wide of the target. Two minutes later, Donatelli forced a save from Nolly after Sebrango laid the ball off to the midfielder.

Playing in their home strip of all white, the Whitecaps were not as potent with their forays into the Impact half, with Burgess the next player to strike a shot well wide of the Montreal goal on 18 minutes.

Instead, it was Montreal that kept Nolly the busier of the two keepers. On 28 minutes, the 'Caps number one needed to save Brown's close-range shot with his legs after Sebrango did well to slip a through ball into his strike partner's path in the Vancouver box.

The half made difficult watching for Whitecaps fans, and on 40 minutes, their hearts would have been in their mouths after a mistake by right fullback Lyle Martin allowed Gjertsen to win possession on the edge of the Whitecaps box. The former Vancouver player beat Martin, but his fierce shot towards goal flew over the Whitecaps crossbar.

Vancouver's best chance of the half then came three minutes later, but despite making a good connection with a shot from the right flank, Burgess' effort flew just wide of the Impact goal.

Unsurprisingly, the last opportunity of the half fell to Montreal on 45 minutes, with the Impact awarded a free kick after Brown was fouled by Whitecaps alternate captain Chris Pozniak near the edge of the Vancouver box. Gjertsen, however, squandered the chance for the home side after hitting a right-footed free kick well over Nolly's crossbar.

It meant both sides went to the halftime break deadlocked at 0-0.

The start of the second half saw both clubs make a substitution before the restart, with Thordarson introducing Toure for Burgess on the left-hand side of midfield. Montreal, meanwhile, made a change in attack, as Byers replaced Sebrango after the former Cuban international was forced off with a suspected fractured wrist.

Having carried most of the play before the break, Montreal picked up where they left off, with captain Nevio Pizzolitto forcing a routine save from Nolly on 47 minutes before Byers had two better chances on 49 and 51 minutes respectively. The Antigua & Barbuda international first struck a half-volleyed effort wide before the substitute was unable to connect properly with Di Lorenzo's cross, which allowed Nolly to make a comfortable diving save.

With the Impact staying in control of proceedings, Thordarson made another substitution on 58 minutes, as Geordie Lyall replaced Wes Knight to move into the right fullback spot, with Martin shifting up to the right-hand side of midfield.

However - much to the dismay of the 'Caps - Lyall's appearance lasted just 10 minutes, as the defender was forced out of the game with a groin problem. It meant that Gordon Chin was brought into central midfield on 68 minutes, with Nizar Khalfan moving out wide on the right side of midfield, and Martin falling back to his starting position at right fullback.

Vancouver attacks proved less frequent than those of Montreal during the match, though former Impact striker Charles Gbeke tried his luck from distance with a turn and shot that rolled wide on 70 minutes.

A minute later, the visitors created their best chance of the game, as Djekanovic was forced into a good save from Khalfan's powerful strike after Martin did well to cut the ball back to the Tanzanian international from the Montreal byline.

With the match still well poised, the Impact brought on the ever-dangerous Rocco Placentino for Brown on 73 minutes, while Marlon James replaced Marcus Haber in the Whitecaps attack five minutes later. It was the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines international's first spell of action since overcoming a leg injury.

As the game entered the dying stages, the Montreal crowd were roused to anger by a decision from match referee Silviu Petrescu. He awarded the Impact a free kick near the edge of the Whitecaps box on 81 minutes after Pozniak had pulled back Byers. The play was blown down, despite Byers doing ever so well to complete his turn past the Whitecaps skipper and elude the challenge on the closing Takashi Hirano to strike the ball into the back of the net.

Montreal players and fans were upset that play was not allowed to continue in that instance, and they were left even more frustrated after Placentino struck the free kick wide of goal on 82 minutes.

As the match entered the three minutes of time added on, it looked like a draw was destined to be the final outcome, despite the ongoing vocal protests of the Stade Saputo crowd.

Yet, Impact fans' anger and frustration soon turned to joy, as Byers claimed all three points for the home side with a well-taken goal. He took Leighton O'Brien's throw-in from the left before running into the Whitecaps box and sidestepping the challenge of Pejic. The move freed up enough space for Byers to fire home a right-footed shot past Nolly and secure Montreal's third-straight win over the Whitecaps.

With two games left in the regular season, the Whitecaps can now finish no higher than sixth place in the USL-1 standings. Vancouver will need to win their final two home matches against Austin Aztex and Cleveland City Stars, and hope Rochester lose their last two contests at home to Miami FC Blues and Charleston Battery, for that to occur.

The Whitecaps will now return home to complete their 2009 regular season schedule. On Sunday afternoon, they host Austin for the second time in a week-and-a-half at Swangard Stadium. Montreal, meanwhile, host Minnesota Thunder in their next league match, also on Sunday afternoon.

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