When the final three whistles are blown after Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference Final in Toronto, one way or another, history will be made. Either Toronto FC or the Montreal Impact will make their MLS Cup Final debut, while also becoming the first Canadian club to play in the league final.
That idea of chasing history will be the theme for both clubs Wednesday night at BMO Field, in front of an expected sold out crowd. Montreal gave themselves a head start to the Final after defeating TFC, 3-2, in the first leg. However, the Reds scored a pair of away goals in the final half-hour to gain momentum going into Wednesday’s second leg.
The Impact started hot against Toronto in the first leg last week, using their speed to fly into Toronto’s defensive third, creating chances and scoring as early as the 10th minute on Dominic Oduro’s opening goal off of an Impact counter.
However, Toronto FC proved that they still have the ability to score at will and with forward Jozy Altidore on a tear throughout the postseason, scoring in all four of Toronto’s playoff matches while tallying three assists. TFC has all of the momentum going into the second leg and just need a 1-0 result to advance to the final on away goals.
With history on the line for both clubs and, technically, country, here’s a closer look at the second leg of the Eastern Conference Final:
Toronto FC: None
Montreal Impact: F Andres Romero (OUT, torn ACL)
Players to Watch:
Toronto FC: After several up-and-down periods, Toronto’s Jozy Altidore is finding the back of the net as often as everyone expected him to. While most eyes have been on MLS MVP candidate Sebastian Giovinco, Altidore has scored when it’s mattered. He’s found the back of the net in all four playoff matches so far for the Reds and has scored when the club has needed him most. If there’s anyone besides Giovinco who could send Toronto to their first-ever MLS Cup Final, it’s Jozy.
Montreal Impact: Ignacio Piatti remains the focal point, but Matteo Mancosu has sneakily emerged as a legitimate playoff threat. The Italian scored again last game, and has certainly exceeded the contributions from Didier Drogba in recent months. Mancosu is a veteran and certainly has big-game experience, and containing him will be vital for Toronto FC.
KEY TO THE GAME:
Completely undone early, TFC was forced into a tactical switch in the opening leg, swapping a 3-5-2 for a 3-4-1-2. The move helped free up Sebastian Giovinco, while giving the Impact midfield and backline all it can handle. The Impact will need to adjust tactically. Marco Donadel needs to remain strong and not get completely overrun by Giovinco, while the rest of the Impact midfield will need to pressure and push TFC back into their own half as much as possible.
“Once they cross the white lines, the players are focused on what they need to do,” said Impact head coach Mauro Biello. “We can’t control how loud they’re going to scream. We can only focus on what we’re doing on the field. We have to stay focused on whatever the game is going to give us. Some players want to quiet the crowd. It could turn into a positive in terms of motivation and what we need to do well. …There are a lot of people behind us. That’s cool.”
“I think we’re still at the start of it and I think it’s going to keep growing more because we have two good franchises who are fully capable of competing in big matches now,” said Greg Vanney. “I think it’s exciting. I think it’s big for Canadian soccer.”