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Impact to square off with TFC for Canadian Championship crown

Anthony Jackson-Hamel scores the only goal of the game as Montreal blanks Cavalry in Calgary to win series with a 3-1 aggregate score

The Impact will face Toronto FC in the final of the Canadian Championship soccer series after each club wrapped up its semifinal series wins on Wednesday.

The Impact travelled to Calgary and defeated FC Cavalry 1-0 at Spruce Meadows. Montreal won the home-and-home series with a 3-1 aggregate score.

Toronto FC, which has won the last three Voyageur Cups, was at home for a 3-0 win over the Ottawa Fury that gave Toronto a 5-0 aggregate win. Montreal and Toronto will meet in the two-leg final, Sept. 18 at Saputo Stadium and Sept. 25 in Toronto.

Ignacio Piatti, who scored twice in the Impact’s 2- 1 win in the first leg last week in Montreal, wasn’t available for Wednesday’s game and Anthony Jackson-Hamel took advantage of a rare start to score in the 13th minute for the game’s only goal.

The goal came off a corner kick as Saphir Taider delivered a ball to Jackson-Hamel just outside the six-yard box and the Quebec City native headed the ball past Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci.

Jackson-Hamel’s first goal of the season put the pressure on the Cavalry, which needed two goals to tie the aggregate. Calgary pushed the pace and enjoyed a 60-40 edge in possession, but was unable to score. The Cavalry had 18 shots to nine for the Impact, but only three of those shots were on target and Clément Diop stopped them for the clean sheet.

“They were two difficult games for us, but they were two good games,” said Impact head coach Rémi Garde. “It was very important for us to score an away goal. Today, we fought as a team. We fought for every ball. We knew it would be that kind of game. If we can repeat this kind of spirit every game, we would be a much stronger team.”

In stoppage time, the hosts almost got a consolation goal off a corner, but Diop was able to react quickly and parry away Jonathan Wheeldon’s shot from close range at the near post.

“It reminded me of when I was a kid, playing here,” said Alberta native and Impact midfielder Shamit Shome. “I think we played well. Our main goal was to qualify for the final, and that’s what we did. I’m glad we got the win at the end.”

Piatti wasn’t available because he suffered a groin injury in last Saturday’s loss in Chicago and returned to Montreal for treatment. The club announced that he will miss Saturday’s home game against FC Dallas (7:30 p.m., TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio) but this is an injury that typically takes weeks to heal. Piatti was also sidelined by a knee injury this year and has been limited to five MLS appearances.

Newcomers Bojan Krkic and Ballou Tabla were available as substitutes Wednesday, but neither played.

Earlier Wednesday, the Impact announced the transfer of French centre-back Zakaria Diallo to Racing Club de Lens of the French Ligue 2. While the details of the transfer were not announced, the French club reportedly paid a transfer fee of US$150,000.

Diallo, 33, was signed from French Ligue 2 club Brest in January 2018 as a replacement for Laurent Ciman, but he missed the entire 2018 season after he suffered an Achilles injury.

Diallo started 23 of 24 games this season, but his performance tailed off in recent weeks. He had three goals and two assists.

He’s the second player to leave the team this week. Midfielder Omar Browne returned to Panamanian side C.A. Independiente de La Chorrera, according to the mutual right to recall included in the loan deal. The Impact retains his MLS rights.

Browne arrived on loan in Montreal on April 16. He played 10 games with the Impact, including five starts. He scored two goals and added two assists.

phickey@postmedia.com

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