‘The quality is high’: Impact’s Piette, Garde left impressed after York9 battle

YORK REGION – In the build up to the first-ever meeting between a Canadian Premier League side and one from MLS, a battle was promised.

Through the opening hour of the 2019 Canadian Championship between Montreal Impact FC and York9 FC on Wednesday night, it looked more a spirited stalemate: The home side testing, but rarely threatening, the visitors bending, but not breaking.

When a mistake gifted the go-ahead goal to Montreal in the 62nd minute – Omar Browne pouncing on a loose back-header from Luca Gasparotto – the Impact seemed pretty comfortable, content to take the win and return home for the second leg in a few weeks time.

Then came Ryan Telfer’s powerful strike for York in the 83rd minute, and Rodrigo Gattas’ five minutes later. Another gift, this time from the penalty spot after Nathan Ingham took down Max Urruti needlessly, converted by second half substitute Saphir Taider, would be handed to Montreal moments later to tie the match at twos well into stoppage-time.

When the final whistle blew a few moments later, though not before York9 saw a chance to win kissed off the bar by Joseph Di Chiara, Montreal should consider themselves lucky to escape with the series tilted in their favour by dint of away goals.

“It was a good game for sure, until the last minute,” said Impact midfielder Samuel Piette post-match. “We fought hard and they fought hard as well. We knew what to expect from them. They had a lot of motivation for sure – the first time that a CPL team plays an MLS (team). I don’t think we underestimated them. I know a lot of guys on this team, played with a lot of guys on the youth national teams before, so I knew they had qualities.

“It’s a good result for us, disappointing with the two goals we conceded, but in a two-legged (series) when you score two goals away it’s always good. It was pretty hard to adjust and find a rhythm with that small pitch, wasn’t the best conditions. We’re looking forward for the second leg.”

Montreal coach Remi Garde did not underestimate York9, fielding a strong XI. He was pleased with the effort of his side on the whole, but not with the goals conceded or the manner in which they were.

“It’s always difficult to play against a side that are supposed to play at a lower level,” Garde said, post-match. “I’m OK with what we have done, but in the moment we are in a period where we concede too many goals, goals that, once again, look the same every week.

“We really have to correct this.”

York 9 forward Ryan Telfer (18) reacts after a goal against Montreal Impact in the second half of a Canadian Championship soccer match at York Lions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports for CPL
York 9 forward Ryan Telfer (18) reacts after a goal against Montreal Impact in the second half of a Canadian Championship soccer match at York Lions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports for CPL

Both Garde and his opposite, York’s Jimmy Brennan, entered knowing the challenge that lay ahead, each complementary of the other. But Brennan hoped Montreal would leave York Lions Stadium with, at the very least, some respect for his team’s approach and character on the night.

That’s what Garde seemed to offer.

“They are trying to play decent football, try to move the ball, to create chances,” Garde said, of York. “In the games that I’ve watched so far, they are interesting, they created many chances, but they are not so efficient.

“We respect them. It’s going to be an open game, a tough game for both teams when we play them in Montreal.”

That second leg at Stade Saputo looks tasty. Montreal with their advantage, York secure in the knowledge that on another day they would have emerged from this first one the victors.

Away from the pitch, a near-sold out crowd at York Lions Stadium were introduced to the magic and madness of the Voyageurs Cup, enthralled by a wild final ten minutes of drama.

“It’s looking very good for the future for the CPL,” said Piette of his first close up look at the upstart league. “As a Canadian, I couldn’t be happier to have professional teams and a professional league in our own country. The level was high like I expected, the quality of the players is high.

“It’s the first year, so there are a lot of things that need improvement, like every league, but it’s a great start for Canada in terms of putting football on the map.”