Look at the post-game stats sheet, and you’d be right to think that the first leg of the Canadian Championship semifinal was likely a blowout win for the Montreal Impact over Cavalry FC.
The Impact had nine shots on target, while Cavalry had just the one.
Attempts at target? An 18-6 advantage to the Impact. Corners? Well, that was 6-1 to the Impact.
Oh, and Montreal had more than 63% of the ball.
Compounding it all? Cavalry went down to 10 men in the 71st minute when Nik Ledgerwood got his second yellow.
If there was ever a night where your team loses 2-1, and you thank the soccer gods for smiling on you, well, Cavalry fans, there you go. That single Cavalry shot, off the foot of Sergio Camargo, ended up in the back of the Impact goal, and the tie is very much alive heading back to the second leg at Spruce Meadows.
Cavs fans can think back to how Ignacio Piatti, already on a brace and the Impact up 2-0, missed a chance that was likely easier to convert than either of his goals. They can think back to how keeper Marco Carducci tipped a Piatti attempt over the bar in the dying minutes.
They can also think about how the Cavs kept their heads above water despite being overrun by a team that gave the visitors a taste of their own medicine.
All year long, we’ve seen opponents struggle to cope with coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s press-all-over-the-field style. But, right from the bat, Impact coach Remi Garde unveiled a press that basically had Cavalry playing against the very system it usually deploys. Piatti’s opening goal came after Cavalry midfielder Julian Buscher coughed up the ball after being double-teamed in the middle of the park.
We saw the Impact overload Cavalry on the wings, bringing help to make sure the supply lines were cut off to the Calgary team’s most dangerous weapon, Nico Pasquotti. Under pressure, with the tables turned, we saw Cavalry cough up the ball over and over.
Instead of creating the turnovers, it was Cavalry making them.
Yet, somehow, through all of this, Cavalry has life. It is amazing how, in soccer, you can undo 90 minutes of hard work with a single mistake. And while the Impact is still up a goal, Cavalry has a vital road goal. Dominique Malonga, inserted into the game just minutes before, made a low pass into the box for Camargo. The Impact defenders were caught napping, and Camargo turned and fired into the corner.
Now, you have to think there’s no way lightning can strike twice. Most times, when a team dominates on the stat sheet like the Impact does, the rout is on. And you have to think that if the stats look like that in leg two, the score won’t be close the second time around.
But, if somehow Cavalry comes through with a result at home, the Impact’s supporters can look back to leg one’s missed chances. They will look back to not being able to take advantage of a 10-man opponent through the final 20 minutes at Stade Saputo. They will look back to giving up that one killer chance when all the momentum was in the home team’s favour.
It’s game on next week at Spruce Meadows.