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MLS Playoff Preview: Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact

Photo by Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports

Photo by Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports

A Canadian club will play in the MLS Cup final for the first time ever. The question is, who will it be?

Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact will meet in the Eastern Conference final, with the first leg taking place on Tuesday at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. A crowd of more than 61,000 are expected to attend, which could break a Canadian attendance record.

This derby has grown in intensity since the on-field success of both TFC and the Impact increased over the past year. The rivalry was already merciless as these teams have previously met in Voyageurs Cup finals before and made deep runs in the CONCACAF Champions League. However, the chance at becoming the first Canadian club to win MLS Cup would add even more ferocity to future meetings.

Both sides are at full strength and with two raucous atmospheres awaiting them over the two legs, this promises to be an incredible series.

Here is a closer look at the first leg.

Notable absences

Toronto FC: None

Montreal Impact: None

Key to the Game

Montreal Impact’s midfield. The Impact had plenty of time on the ball against D.C. United in the knockout round. They switched to a counterattacking system versus the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinal and it was a well-executed plan. However, the Impact’s trio has a combined age of 100. Shutting down a TFC attack with Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore won’t be easy.

Player to Watch

Michael Bradley. The U.S. international has been immense in the playoffs so far for Toronto. Bradley leads the team in tackles over the last three games and has taken loads of pressure off the Reds’ defense during the postseason. He is also the man who kickstarts attacks from deep, so if he is closed down, the Impact could be in business.

Quotes

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney said: “We’ve got a very experienced team. I think our guys have played in environments similar to this. I think it’s motivation one way or another. It doesn’t matter, just to have the energy in the stands whether they’re for you or against you. It heightens your awareness, your sharpness when you’re out here.”

Montreal Impact forward Ignacio Piatti said: “We played a lot of games against Toronto this season and we know what they can do. With Giovinco and Altidore up front, we have to be focused like we did in our past two games against the Red Bulls. I think the defense improved a lot, we were good, and if we can be focused like our past three games, we can win here, and it’s important not to give up any goals.”

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