Both the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact lined up in 4-2-3-1 formations with a number of changes for both teams.
Montreal coach Frank Klopas was missing five players whom he would normally consider for his starting XI: Marco Di Vaio, Justin Mapp, Felipe, Sanna Nyassi and Hernan Bernardello. Vancouver coach Carl Robinson had to replace the injured Jay DeMerit, as well as Nigel Reo-Coker, who was in New York with his wife, who gave birth to the couple's first child.
After the excitement of the World Cup over the last two weeks, this game was something of a letdown. There were chances at both ends, but both teams – Vancouver, in particular – failed to perform up to their potential.
Whitecaps' fans have come to expect up-tempo, free-flowing football at BC Place this season. After scoring 17 goals in their seven-game unbeaten run leading up to Wednesday's match, the Whitecaps failed to excite their supporters and struggled to find a way past a stubborn Impact team.
Pedro Morales, usually the creative maestro of the Whitecaps team, was off his game. His passes, normally precise and incisive, went astray as Montreal stymied and frustrated Vancouver. Far too often, promising moves broke down in transition as Vancouver failed to find a way to exploit the athleticism and speed of its front three – Darren Mattocks, Erik Hurtado and Kekuta Manneh.
There was an expectation that the three young speedsters would create a significant advantage for Vancouver, but Montreal did an excellent job of denying all three players time on the ball and space in which to operate. The midfield partnership of Patrice Bernier and debutant Gorka Larrea hustled and harried Morales, Gershon Koffie and Matias Laba, preventing the Whitecaps' midfielders from finding their intended targets.
Montreal's central defensive partnership of Matteo Ferrari and Heath Pearce did an excellent job of marshaling Hurtado and, with little support from Mattocks and Manneh, Vancouver's front man endured a frustrating night. After scoring a goal in each of his last four games for the Whitecaps, Hurtado failed to trouble the Montreal back four.
The Impact could have come to Vancouver to ‘park the bus' – put as many players as possible behind the ball, hope to keep a clean sheet and steal a point on the road. While that was the ultimate outcome of the match, Montreal looked the more dangerous side in transition.
Both Issey Nakajima-Farran and Maxim Tissot provided service to Andres Romero and Jack McInerney, whose movement was superb. McInerney caused problems for Vancouver's central defensive partnership of Andy O'Brien and Johnny Leveron all night and, if the Impact had been a little more precise with their service to McInerney, he may very well have provided the breakthrough that the visitors needed.
In the second half, Montreal hit the post through McInerney and the bar through Tissot, and may consider themselves unlucky not to have come away with all three points. But they had goalkeeper Troy Perkins to thank for keeping the score 0-0 at the other end, as the Montreal shot stopper made a number of fine saves in the second half. The pick of the bunch was a fantastic tip around the post from a low, driven Morales free kick that seemed destined to find the bottom left corner of the Impact goal.
The Montreal Impact have had a difficult season in MLS. With just two wins to their credit – none coming away from home – most observers felt that a home win was as close to a sure thing for Vancouver as possible. But Montreal were solid defensively, nullified the pace of Vancouver's front three and looked dangerous in transition. Given the number of players unavailable to Frank Klopas, Montreal's coach has to be pleased with a point.
Both goalkeepers were excellent for their respective teams. David Ousted and Troy Perkins each made a number of reflex saves to keep a clean sheet.
Vancouver failed to live up to the high standards they have set for themselves on home soil this year. Their build-up play was methodical and, far too often, their passes failed to reach their intended target. Apart from Ousted, there wasn't a single player who played up to his potential.
The message from Carl Robinson will be a simple one - chalk it up to a bad day at the office and move on to the next game.
The Star Man
While both Ousted and Perkins were superb, Perkins just shades it for his second-half performance. Vancouver threw everything they had at the Montreal goalkeeper, who dealt with everything in his stride.
The Vancouver Whitecaps travel to Colorado on Saturday, June 28 to take on the Rapids (TSN, 6pm PT 9pm ET) while the Montreal Impact host the Houston Dynamo on Sunday, June 29.