Canadian Championship Semi-Final Leg One Recap: MLS Clubs Take The Wins
The semi-finals of the Canadian Championship showed three leagues represented across four teams, with MLS clubs Montreal Impact and Toronto FC facing Cavalry FC and the Ottawa Fury respectively. We speculated that while the two non-MLS sides came in as underdogs, both had proven themselves capable of surprising MLS opposition.
Let’s take a quick recap as to what unfolded in the first leg of the 2019 Canadian Championship semi-finals:
Montreal Impact 2 – 1 Cavalry FC
Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s Cavalry FC squad came into the match full of confidence after dispatching the Vancouver Whitecaps in the quarter-finals, and a very respectful Montreal Impact lineup showed that Remi Garde was aware of the danger.
The opening minutes saw good chances go both ways: Montreal goalkeeper James Pantemis let a ball roll through dangerously, with Sergio Camargo almost latching on to the end of it. At the other end of the pitch, Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci was only able to rebound a fast shot from Urruti, but was able to smother the followup from Argentinian playmaker Ignacio Piatti.
The high-pressing nature deployed by Montreal Impact would pay off in the 31st minute, when Cavalry FC midfielder Julian Buscher found himself surrounded by black-and-blue shirts. His miss-kicked backpass allowed Piatti to take possession, and the skillfull veteran quickly moved in for the kill: after making space between himself and Mason Trafford, he blasted a right-footed rocket into the back of the net to give Montreal the lead.
The bell would toll once again at Stade Saputo just minutes into the second half, when a straightforward cross from Bacary Sagna found Piatti completely unmarked. The Argentinian slotted the ball home, with his fifth-ever goal in Voyageurs Cup action giving him a club-record high.
Minutes later, it seemed like a hat trick was on the cards after Lassi Lappalainen found himself with ample space on the flank. He darted forward and rolled the ball to Piatti, who fired it high. Cavalry FC found itself frequently on the backfoot, with a series of defensive errors ensuring that the Impact kept applying pressure in the Cavalry half.
Against the run of play, Cavalry FC would get the away goal it was looking for after Julian Buscher lofted a beautiful pass to substitute striker Dominique Malonga, who then made a pinpoint pass to Sergio Camargo. Sergio took a single touch to take himself away from Raitala, and then buried the ball into back of the net.
There was no time for fanfare for the away team: Cavalry had work to do.
Just when things were looking up for Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s men, a rash tackle from team captain Nik Ledgerwood would see him collect a second yellow, becoming the second CPL team captain to be sent off in a matter of days. Instead of building momentum from the away goal, Cavalry FC was forced to switch to a 4-4-1 for the rest of the match.
The rest of the game was dominated by the Montreal Impact, who had a string of corners in the game’s dying minutes – though no more goals would were to come. Montreal earned itself a 2-1 home win on the night, though Cavalry FC will fancy its chances at Spruce Meadows after scoring a crucial away goal.
Ottawa Fury 0 – 2 Toronto FC
Greg Vanney made a lot of changes to the Toronto FC lineup, prompting speculation that securing a result at home might be a possibility for an Ottawa Fury side going through a good patch of form in the USL.
The match certainly started out with plenty of positive signs for the Fury: Dakota Barnathan got his head to the ball at close range, but TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono proved himself up to the task. Minutes later, a freekick from Ottawa Fury captain Carl Haworth would curl inches wide of the net.
The Ottawa Fury would go on to rue the missed chances when goalkeeper Callum Irving failed to intercept a corner kick from Endoh, which then allowed Toronto FC veteran Drew Moor to scissor-kick home the opening goal:
The second half would see a rather uninspiring performance from both sides, though the Fury would get itself a handful of half-decent chances: former TFC academy product Chris Mannella would see his shot pushed just wide, while a second freekick from captain Carl Haworth would once again miss by inches.
Callum Irving came up big to prevent a goal in the 87th minute, but the nation’s capital would concede a second in added time after an individual effort from Tsubasa Endoh took a deflection and bounced beyond Irving. The last-gasp goal gives Toronto FC a healthy 2-0 lead for the return fixture at BMO Field.
Both Major League Soccer clubs found a way to win in the first leg of the Canadian Championship semi-finals, but the underdogs certainly had a handful of chances. Cavalry FC is in the better shape of the two, securing itself an away goal which would see scoring at home bring them the advantage. The Ottawa Fury have it all to do, especially when playing away from home at BMO Field.
The second legs for both fixtures will play out on Wednesday, August 14. Interested fans can tune into the matches exclusively on OneSoccer.