Fierce rivals Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact will lock horns once more after they were drawn together in Group C in the MLS Is Back Tournament. The two Canadian sides will be joined by D.C. United and the New England Revolution.
The next edition of the Canadian Classique promises to be an evenly-matched clash with both TFC and the Impact starting the season in good form. Before play was suspended, Thierry Henry’s men got off to a promising start, claiming four out of a possible six points, overcoming fellow Group C side New England Revolution in their season opener. Having been drawn against three Eastern Conference sides, the Impact will be eager to keep their early season momentum going.
“I don’t feel like the stop in play is going to kill us. I’ve tried to use it as a positive myself and get to know the league a bit more and look at other teams and other strikers I might come up against,” Luis Binks told SBI. “I’ve used it as a time to try and learn. Other players have done that as well. Players have come back looking fitter, sharper and stronger.”
Binks is all too familiar with rivalry matchups regularly going head-to-head against Arsenal with Tottenham Hotspur’s youth academy. As his first-ever Canadian Classique approaches, the Englishman is looking forward to taking on TFC.
“Obviously, the Toronto game is the one that sticks out for me. I hope to be on the field for that game. Just by talking to other players, I know how much that game means,” Binks said. “I like playing in games against teams you don’t particularly get along with and there’s history.”
TFC will go into the tournament as one of the favorites, having reached the MLS Cup final last season. The end result may not have gone their way but Greg Vanney has a wealth of experience at his disposal he can count on.
“Experience is always a good thing to have, especially in this type of tournament where you have games back to back with little rest,” Jonathan Osorio told SBI. “We’re used to that. Last year’s playoffs helped us a lot in that sense as we were playing games with little rest until the Conference semifinals,” Osorio said.
Regardless, Osorio maintains experience is only worth so much when the whistle blows.
“All that experience will help us but at the same time, we still have to go out and play against teams that are hungry. It will be tough, but we’re hoping our experience gives us a bit of an edge,” Osorio said.
The Reds will be looking to confirm their contender status with a deep run in Orlando, but not before exacting their revenge over the Montreal Impact. The last time the two sides two met, the Impact emerged victorious, hoisting the Canadian Championship. As bad blood continues to fester between them, the next edition of the Canadian Classique promises to be a hotly-contested affair.
“There are no easy games in this league, we have our hands full,” Osorio said. “Any game against Montreal is a big game, even a friendly. It’s always exciting going against your rival. I feel like throughout my career, I’ve been on the better end for most things, but last time we played they won the Canadian Championship. That’s going to be at the back of our heads,” Osorio said.
D.C. United will be out for revenge of its own against TFC after suffering a 5-1 defeat in last season’s playoffs against Greg Vanney’s men. D.C United rallied from behind in their last clash against Inter Miami CF and will be hoping to carry that form into the tournament.
“It’s really exciting for all of us,” Kevin Paredes said during a Q&A directly after the draw. “Even during quarantine we haven’t switched off and we’ve been focused. We’re all prepared. Orlando is going to be good for us.”
The New England Revolution will look to use the tournament to leapfrog their fellow Eastern Conference sides, following a disappointing start to the year. After kicking off the year with a come-from-behind defeat against the Montreal Impact, the Revs will want to get their season back on track.
“I’m excited we’ll have another crack at Montreal,” Revs defender Henry Kessler told SBI. “The first game didn’t go as we would like, but we get another shot at them. Toronto is a very good team and I’m looking forward at the matchups that will present. D.C. United should be a good challenge, I can’t wait.”
Last year, Bruce Arena’s men qualified for the MLS Playoffs as the seventh seed, just three points ahead of the Chicago Fire. The Revolution are well aware of the importance of every game, as points amassed in the group stages count towards the season. Doubts remain over the completion of the regular season, but the Revs will be nonetheless eager to impress.
“We are not quite sure what will happen after the Orlando tournament, we have to take advantage of these games,” Kessler said. “We have to get as many points as possible, these games are important.”