Thursday, February 26, 2009

55,571


Unless you've been stuck under a rock since yesterday, or your only source of sports news is the Winnipeg Free Press, you know by now that the Montreal Impact knocked off Santos Laguna 2-0 in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.

They did it the same way that they managed to win matches in the earlier rounds of the competition: a well-organized defense, timely goalkeeping, and dangerous counterattacks. Eddy Sebrango's two goals weren't things of beauty (and the first was likely an own-goal), but they put Santos in a tough spot going home. That Santos failed to score an away goal was even more important.


But the real story is the crowd. 55,671 fans to watch soccer in a decrepit indoor stadium (though I'll admit to still having a soft spot for the Big O). In February. While Duane at the 24th minute was right all along about there being a fair number of families and children in the building with cheap tickets (from the few times the camera panned the crowd, I'd guess around 10,000), it still managed to sound like a soccer crowd. And a big one at that.

Duane really captures the zeitgeist with this quote:
In the middle of the winter -- hockey season-- 55,000 people watched a soccer game in Canada. The sport might have turned a corner tonight. Maybe Montreal wasn't the only winner. Maybe every person who has fought to bring this sport into the mainstream in Canada also walked away with a victory.
If I failed to mention it yesterday, major kudos to the Ultras section who were really into it the whole 90 minutes, and beforehand too (as per this piece from The National).

[More photos from daylife]

And thanks to my buddy Zapataloco in the comments to yesterday's liveblog, some early analysis from the Mexican press:
The analysis culled from the Mediotempo article goes something like this:

Sebrangos surprising early goal set the tone for a match in which the mexican side played without offensive creativity and lacked penetration, leaving forwards Benitez and Vuoso all alone up front.

The Canadian team played a pragmatic game which built on their advantage in aerial and physical play.

Every passing minute (in the first half)saw the Impact establish themselves more steadily on the field, constantly preventing the Mexicans from playing their style by not letting them come into their half while in full control of the ball, save for a a few early chances from Benitez who was left to fend for himself by his teammates.

By the 50th minute Santos were becoming desperate for the draw and started to over rely on shooting from distance, with little success.

The impact played the game in the way that best suited them: waiting for the Laguneros, pressuring them on the transition and occasionally touching the ball or going for the quick counter-attack, and also looking for aerial play and set pieces to take advantage of their physically imposing players.

Mediotempo describes Sanchez as "immobile and contemplative" on Sebrangos second goal.

They also thought the officials did a good job, making good calls and not letting things get out of hand when tempers flared up.

Hope this helps.

Zapatoloco.
Muchly appreciated, Z! Thanks also to all the readers yesterday who one made the liveblog one of my most successful, in terms of traffic. If all goes well, I'll be liveblogging again next Thursday at 10 pm et.

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