Former MLS keeper Matt Jordan is alive and well and playing for Montreal, which by scraping out a 1-1 tie with Toronto FC Tuesday night at BMO Field captured the Nutrilite Championship and qualified as the Canadian representative in the CONCACAF Champions League.
"We knew we couldn't sit back, and we were confident of battling back once they'd scored," said Jordan assessing how Montreal rallied when Panamanian striker Roberto Brown had equalized 11 minutes after Rohan Ricketts headed TFC into the lead. "We say all the time that there's not much difference between the MLS teams and our team and other USL teams, and qualifying for CONCACAF in this tournament proves it."
Jordan and Brown were two of five former MLS players to hand Toronto an embarrassing result that really only proved that Toronto, not every team across the 14-team league, isn't necessarily superior to USL opposition. Yet the chance to knock off their Canadian big brother in an official competition whetted the desire of Vancouver and Montreal players, and a small pocket of Montreal supporters who'd made the trek to BMO celebrated wildly when the players carried over the trophy to display it.
Head coach John Carver is angry and disgruntled and fuming regarding Toronto (1-1-2, 5 points), which by losing to Vancouver and tying Montreal at home in its four games effectively took itself out of the competition despite the supposed advantage of being an MLS team competing against USL-1 opposition.
"I can't knock them, because they've won the league," said Carver of the three-team, double-round robin that Montreal topped with a 2-1-1 record. "Not just this game tonight, but over the four games they've been the best team."
Jim Brennan sent over a cross from the left wing that Ricketts nailed into the top corner for the 1-0 lead, but TFC failed to deal with a Joey Gjertsen corner kick and Brown got to it before keeper Greg Sutton or any of his teammates.
Montreal coach John Limniatis praised his team for coming out to play and getting back the goal so quickly, rather than let Toronto ride the momentum of another noisy, sellout (20,107) crowd at BMO Field.
"It did not take a long time to get back and tie the game, it made it easier for us," he said. "The tie tonight is a very positive result. I'm very proud of my players today because they are the ones who won the championship. It is important for them, for our organization, and our fans."
Pushed on by a boisterous and frustrated crowd, Toronto nearly scored the goal it needed in stoppage time, but a Laurent Robert free kick through a crowd of players hit the post, and from just a yard away Jeff Cunningham failed to put it away and Jordan smothered TFC's final opportunity after a block by captain Nevio Pizzolitto.
"I scored an own goal last week [in a USL game] and for a second I was thinking, 'Here we go again,'" Pizzolitto said. "But I got a piece of it and than Matt got on top of it. This cup is as important as the two playoff championships that we won in 1994 and 2004. Toronto FC was not in the Canadian championship in the past years so we had to prove to people that we were the best team in Canada and that's what we did tonight."
Montreal will begin play next month in the preliminary round of the Champions League. MLS teams New England and Chivas USA will also take part in the preliminaries, from which the winners of eight head-to-head, two-game series advance to the 16-team group phase.