It all started at the Radisson Metro Station, 7 pm, one hour away from kick off. The metro station was filled to the entrance with Montreal Impact fans wanting to get to the Olympic Stadium on time for the start of the Eastern Conference Semifinals match against non-other then their long-time rivals: Toronto FC. The game was completely sold out with a stellar crowd of 61 004 fans attending this historic event at the big O. 7:12 pm, finally at the stadium, there were about 30 000 people waiting to get to their seats. My friend and I ended up waiting an hour and fifteen minutes in a jam packed, excited and motivated crowd screaming ritual Impact songs. It was extremely hot, even at this time of year, but it was totally worth it to be crowded with passionate people, from all over town. This really showed how a massive population can all come together to cheer on their local team.
8:25 pm, we finally got to our seats. Technically, there should have been 25 minutes of the game played already, but this is where it gets interesting. Luckily, there were technical difficulties on the pitch, as the 18-yard box was too small, meaning that the lines had to be repainted. This meant that even after waiting a good two hours to actually get two our seats, we had missed nothing, and even got to sing the National Anthem with pride and joy.
The greatest part of the night had to be the beauty of seeing those 61 004 (minus the Toronto Fans) go absolutely crazy when Dominic Oduro slotted in a cheeky finish past Matt Irwin with an exceptional pass from the captain himself, Patrice Bernier. Not only was it a historic attendance for the Big O, but it has also never heard noise like that before. To top it all off, just two minutes later, the Impacts came counter attacking down the left flank with an outstandingly precise back pass from Ignacio Piatti, which found the right foot of the Italian Matteo Mancosu for his fourth of the playoffs. Now, we, the fans of the Impact team, hadn’t even stopped celebrating the last goal we scored, still screaming Oduro’s name, when the Big O erupted once again, and this time, louder than it has ever been before. I am still getting goosebumps just writing about these two insane moments. The unimaginable part is, if this game had started on time, a good 20 000 people would have missed one of, what are now the two craziest and most exciting moments of their lives. Crazy!
The game had calmed down a little, but it was still a very entertaining display by a team that looked to be heading towards the Final of the MLS Cup with ease. In the 53rd minute, Montreal left back, Ambroise Oyongo, comes surging down the middle in a full-on counter attack mode, with Piatti on his left and Oduro on his right. At this moment, most fans were excited for the outcome, but weren’t really expecting anything from the defender. I, however, was one of the lonely supporters standing who had that feeling that something magical was going to happen. And so, Oyongo decided to go all the way and have a shot at scoring, precisely placing a left footed shot in the bottom right corner of the goal, giving the Impact an incredible three goal lead. To top it all off, he celebrated with the mannequin challenge.
Sadly, to every good night, there is always something negative, and that was Toronto’s quick fire of two goals in five minutes, silencing the Montreal crowd, as the game went from being an easy victory into the next leg, to a nail biting finish to this playoff series. Those two goals were crucial, as away goals are very important. For example, if Toronto wins 1-0, even though the score is 3-3 on aggregate, they advance, thanks to their two away goals. The Impact now takes a 3-2 advantage into the next game in Toronto on November 30th, and hopefully they can clinch a spot in the Final!
To end the night on a high note, it was the Impact’s last game at home for the 2015-2016 season, which meant that we had to say goodbye to the team and wish them the best of luck for the rest of the playoffs. They will hopefully be the first Canadian team to bring home the MLS Cup. Also, leaving us, was the King himself, Didier Drogba. With his two-year contract coming to an end, and his body not getting any younger, Drogba has decided he will not be returning to Montreal next year, and it was a pretty emotional farewell. He received a beautiful painting by a young Montreal artist, an outstanding farewell video which brought a couple of tears to his eyes, and finally, a standing ovation from the crowd who will never forget the legendary presence he has brought to this team, and this city on and off the field. Thank you, Didier, it has been a true honour watching you play, and you have certainly been a true inspiration to many young aspiring soccer players in Montreal.
Written by: Brandon Brini