Impact become Canada’s 1st pro team to play with spectators since start of pandemic

August 26, 2020
Impact become Canada's 1st pro team to play with spectators since start of pandemic

First-half strikes by Romell Quioto and Lassi Lappalainen gave the Montreal Impact a 2-0 victory over the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps on Tuesday night in front of 250 spectators at Saputo Stadium.

It was the first game in exactly a month for the Impact (3-2-1), who lost 1-0 to Orlando City on July 25 in the knockout round at the MLS is Back tournament.

The Whitecaps (2-6-0), who failed to convert a penalty in the second half, dropped their third straight game after being beaten twice by Toronto FC last week.

In new coach Thierry Henry’s first match at Saputo Stadium, the Impact repeatedly exploited the left flank and it led to both first-half goals.

WATCH | Impact keep clean sheet in win over Whitecaps:

Saphir Taider made a beautiful cross to Romell Quioto for a pretty header goal. Montreal Impact dominated the Vancouver Whitecaps. 1:15

Missed coverage by Vancouver on that left wing gave Saphir Taider yards of space in the 18th minute. The midfielder delivered a lovely out-swinging cross with the outside of his boot into the box to Quioto, who headed it home for the early lead.

A deep ball by Emanuel Maciel found the speedy Lappalainen behind the Whitecaps’ back line in the 40th. Lappalainen let the ball settle down before coolly firing into the far corner of the net, out of goalkeeper Thomas Hasal’s reach.

250 fans in attendance

The Impact became Canada’s first professional sports team to play in front of fans since the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted play in March.

The crowd of 250 — the maximum permitted inside Saputo Stadium under Quebec’s public-health guidelines — were scattered across eight separate stands in the 20,801-seat venue.

The few fans on hand made themselves heard, though they were sometimes drowned out by pre-recorded fan noise pumping out the stadium’s speakers. Other supporters without tickets gathered outside the grounds, drumming and setting off smoke bombs.

“It’s kind of cool to be one of the first to be part of a live event,” season-ticket holder Maxime Theriault said before kickoff. “It’s like a private session or a private practice.”

Fans had their temperatures checked at the gate and were required to wear face masks at all times while inside the stadium.

“I never envisioned there would be any semblance of a season,” said Impact supporter Dany Trudeau, who attended the game with his father. “We still don’t know what will happen with the American teams. Right now we’re taking any games they’ll give us.”

Teams kneel before kickoff

All players took a knee prior to kickoff in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Impact goalkeeper Clement Diop raised his fist in the air.

The Whitecaps struggled offensively in the first half despite seeing more of the ball.

Down 2-0, Vancouver had a chance to halve the deficit in the 50th minute when Derek Cornelius went down in the box after Zachary Brault-Guillard kicked his thigh.

Lucas Cavallini failed to get much power into his spot kick. Diop dived to his left for the easy save, on his way to his second clean sheet of the season.

The Whitecaps registered two shots on target. They had just one shot on goal in each of their losses to Toronto FC last week.

Substitute Anthony Jackson-Hamel nearly added a third goal for Montreal but his header from six yards out skimmed the crossbar in the 87th minute.

The three Canadian MLS teams are facing each other three times — for a combined nine games — while COVID-19 border restrictions complicate travel to and from the U.S.

The results count in the MLS standings. The best team after nine games will earn a spot in the Canadian Championship final against the winner of this season’s Canadian Premier League.

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