Vancouver Whitecaps are champions of Canada (again), defeating CF Montreal

Crucial for the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday night was the number two.

A two goal second half was all the home side needed to claim a second straight Canadian Championship title, another feather in the cap of Vanni Sartini in a deserved victory over CF Montreal at BC Place.

Another cup final goal from Brian White and a penalty from Ryan Gauld were decisive in the 2-1 win but it was a night where the Caps could have easily matched the 5-0 scoreline against their Quebecois brethren from earlier this season.

In the decisive contest, Sartini went with a familiar lineup, with changes coming largely because of the need to include three Canadians in the starting lineup. Ryan Raposo and Russell Teibert, Voyageurs Cup stalwarts, re-entered the lineup and Levonte Johnson started in lieu of Thomas Hasal or Karifa Yao, a sensible move that rewarded the good form of the rookie striker.

The Caps nearly drew first blood only five minutes into the match. A liquid move forced Montreal to clear the ball out for a Caps corner and Tristan Blackmon was denied a headed goal only by the fingertips of Jonathan Sirois, who made an inch perfect save.

He made an even better stop moments later to deny Johnson, with a deflected shot sending Sirois the wrong way and a last-ditch effort to stick a leg out denying the goal. It is hard to see how the Caps could have done any better with those chances but the fear of those misses coming back to haunt them remained omnipresent.

The Caps started with a lot of intensity, throwing plenty of men forward and were unlucky not to be rewarded with a goal for their efforts. But that level of effort was not sustainable and Montreal slowly began getting more time on the ball and ramping up the press, asking the question of how Vancouver would respond.

Sirois, however, stood ready, to shut down whatever answer the Caps came up with. Montreal remained frustrated, even as the Caps dominance faded, and another turnover led to a perfect break crafted by Ryan Gauld, Johnson and Brian White but Sirois tapped White’s point blank shot off the post and out for a corner.

He went peak Buffon again to deny a well-placed Gressel shot from distance moments later, while Takaoka was called into action to deny what was easily Montreal’s best chance, an odd-man rush where Ariel Lassiter inexplicably shot rather than playing a square ball.

The second half began much more cagey, with Montreal content to play directly and try and eat up time and energy from the Caps, waiting for a gilded chance.

That chance, however, fell first for the Caps and it was ironically due to a Sirois miscue. A rather hopeful long ball from Gauld was misjudged by the young keeper and White easily collected and tapped into an empty net, giving the Caps a hard-earned 1-0 win. White surely would not mind the sweaty goal.

Things went from bad to worse for Montreal moments later, when a striker’s challenge from Ahmed Hamdi after a Caps corner hauled down Ryan Gauld. Despite some initial confusion, Filip Dujic pointed to the spot and Gauld stepped up to finish the job, sending Sirois the wrong way with a perfect spot kick.

Montreal quickly pivoted to bringing on a wave of attacking substitution, trying to break down the home side who up until that point had focused on cutting down passing lanes in midfield and conceding little in the way of meaningful space in wide areas.

Sunusi Ibrahim, however, denied the Caps a restful finish. It was another direct ball over the top, misjudged somewhat by Tristan Blackmon, and the Nigerian fired and perfectly placed the shot past Takaoka.

Takaoka watched Sirois pull off stunner after stunner and with the match already into stoppage time, he denied a terrific header from Ibrahim, parrying it away with the very tips of his fingers to keep the match at 2-1. It was some anxious final moments, including another crucial intervention at the absolute death, but Vancouver withstood the pressure to claim the Voyageurs Cup.

Stray Thoughts

  • You want to see intensity heading into a cup final, particularly playing at home, and the Caps took full advantage of the BC Place environs. This was as focused a first half as I’ve seen from this side in some time (since, perhaps, the last match against Montreal). Praise should go to the coaching staff and the senior squad members for making sure the Caps dwarfed Montreal in terms of energy, with every player tracking back to win balls and the Vancouver far outpacing the visitors in tackles and duels won.
  • And credit should go to Vanni for not overthinking his starting lineup. In truth, Thomas Hasal’s match to forget in St. Louis (and Johnson’s short-term call up earlier this week) likely made this a foregone conclusion but this was a match where Hasal or Yao could not be risked. Johnson did his part and there was no noticeable drop off between a Simon Becher or Sergio Cordova and the youngster. He has looked more dangerous than his DP (sorta) teammate, tracked back nicely despite playing deeper and hopefully his solid cameos in Voyageurs Cup play give a route into more first team minutes.
  • That all being said, this was a match won in the midfield. The Caps actually didn’t have a majority of possession in the first half but forced Montreal into turnovers and shut down any meaningful chances to play dangerous balls. This helped give Vancouver the opportunity for those well crafted breaks and even the attacking players were happy to track back and apply pressure, close off passing lanes and force Montreal into a direct style of play that didn’t suit them.
  • Your regularly scheduled reminder that Yohei Takaoka continues to be that dude.
  • I can’t wait to see Sartini singing at a Nickelback concert. In seriousness, Sartini has gone from the hot seat to the most decorated manager in club history — not an arc many saw coming. More success in the league is perhaps needed to cement his status as the best manager in the club’s history but he has shown flashes of progress in terms of game management and you can’t argue with back-to-back trophies.
  • Plus, who else takes their shirt off quite so much?

Man of the Match

To win a trophy, you need a total team performance and the Caps got that. Ryan Gauld, however, was brilliant and deserved a goal and Julian Gressel deserved his MVP win. Meanwhile, Andres Cubas locked down the midfield and Yohei Takaoka came up big when the Caps needed it. But I’ll be celebrating the victory, so if you want to quibble with who was MOTM, no complaints here.

5 thoughts on “Vancouver Whitecaps are champions of Canada (again), defeating CF Montreal

  1. I worry about Cordova. He doesn’t seem connected to the team. Caicedo did a terrible pass to Cordova which was obviously not received and not CΓ³rdovas fault. Caicedo proceeded to berate Cordova. Cordova looked beaten down by this younger guy half his size. He may have quality but I’m not sure he is settled enough to show it.

  2. MOTM– when all is said and done, our goalie, Takaoka, brought us the win- his BIG save in the dying minutes was near world class IMO; and then he made a final save on the last kick of the match- he was sure-handed on all cross balls and did an exceeptional job of distributing the ball to other Cap players– when facing the kind of pressure after Montreal’s goal, the last 10 minutes required Takaoka’s presence and he won us the game

    as a side note of negativity, i really disagree that Vanni choose Cordova and to some degree, Johnson, over simon becher– watching sergio, when he was subbed in for the last 15 minutes, was painful to watch- if i were becher, i would be royally P O and would wonder if the head coach values my abilities

    a thoroughly gripping match that deserved to be watched by +20 000 fans –


    1. Have to agree with everything you said. Not only has Takaoka been a revelation for us in goal, the calm that the back line plays with in front of him is equally important. As for Cordova, when I saw him coming in I was shocked, that moment screamed for Becher. Cordova just does not apply pressure and close guys down, which is what is required at that point in the match. Becher should be playing way more and certainly ahead of Cordova. In fact I think our striker hierarchy should be White, Becher, LJ, Cordova based on recent performances. All that said great performance from the team!

    2. I think Becher knows that they are going to try to justify the payroll on Cordova sometimes. If nothing clicks though ultimately Becher is going to get more and more playtime and be a big part of our future.

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