ACC Preview: Impact, TFC kick off domestic chase at Big O
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. TORONTO FC
Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Quebec, May 2, 2012,
Amway Canadian Championship semifinal first leg
8 pm ET (Sportsnet, TVA Sport, illico Mobile, illico Web)
The Montreal Impact is set to face Toronto FC in the first leg of the 2012 Amway Canadian Championships this Wednesday at Olympic Stadium, 8 pm ET. The game will be broadcast live on Sportsnet and TVA Sports and is also available on illico Mobile, and illico Web.
Season tickets are still available online at impactmontreal.com or by calling 514-328-3668 while individual for all games presented at the Olympic Stadium are also available through the Admission network or at the ticketing office.
Canadian referee Paul Ward is in charge of the match on Wednesday. The 38-year old was the lead official in Toronto's first outing in the 2011 Canadian Championship at Edmonton. In that match - a 3-0 TFC victory - Edmonton's Shaun Saiko received a red card, while Alan Gordon and Maicon Santos were booked for Toronto. Ward's assistants are Daniel Belleau and Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho. The fourth official is Mathieu Bourdeau.
AMWAY CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP
As in 2011, this year’s Amway Canadian Championship will be contested by four Canadian clubs - Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal from MLS, as well as Edmonton from the second-tier NASL. The tournament will consist of a home-and-away semifinal stage followed by a home-and-away championship final series. The semifinal pairings were based on the final standings of the four clubs in their respective leagues last season. Three-time defending champions Toronto FC are the top seed, while last year’s runners-up Whitecaps FC are the second seed after The Reds finished above Vancouver in MLS in 2011. FC Edmonton are the third seed after finishing above MLS expansion side Montreal Impact in the 2011 NASL standings, as the Quebec club were part of North America’s second division last year.
In the semifinals, Whitecaps FC face FC Edmonton in the first leg in the Alberta provincial capital on Wednesday before hosting the NASL outfit at BC Place on Wednesday, May 9. The other semifinal series sees Montreal hosting Toronto FC at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in the first leg on Wednesday before the Voyageurs Cup holders host the decisive second leg at Toronto's BMO Field on May 9. The two-leg championship final series will be played on Wednesday, May 16, and Wednesday, May 23. The highest-seeded team in the final will earn the right to determine whether they open the final series at home or on the road.
During the semifinal and final series, if both clubs are level on aggregate over the two games, the 'Away Goals' rule will be used to determine the series winner (ie: the club that scores the most goals on the road over the two games). If the 'Away Goals' rule does not produce a result (ie: both teams have scored the same number of goals at home and away), then two 15-minute periods of extra time will be played at the end of the second leg. If, during extra time, both teams score the same number of goals, the visiting team will win the series on the strength of the number of 'Away Goals' they have scored in the extra-time period. If no goals are scored during extra time, the series will then be determined with a penalty shootout.
The winners of the 2012 Amway Canadian Championship not only claim the Voyageurs Cup title and the bragging rights as Canada's top club, they will also represent Canada in the 2012-13 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, where they will play the top clubs in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The winner of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League title will then represent the confederation at the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco.
All four clubs submitted their rosters for this year’s Amway Canadian Championship last week. Clubs were able to submit up to 30 names for the competition, with condensed 23-player lists to be submitted 48 hours in advance of each match. Clubs can dress 18 players for each match, of which 11 will start and three can enter as substitutes.
“These are the kind of games that you remember as a player in your career,” said Impact head coach Jesse Marsch. “In derbies, knockouts or games with more on the line, the best players play their best in these moments. I think we have a lot of quality players who are ready for this challenge. We are in good state of mind and we have a full belief in who we are and what we are about. Now we have to continue to put the foot down on the pedal every day.”
The Impact, 2-5-2 in regular season play, beat the Portland Timbers 2-0 last Saturday to remain undefeated at home (2-0-1). Bernardo Corradi and Sinisa Ubiparipovic scored while Donovan Ricketts earned his first shutout this season.
Toronto, which has lost its seven games so far this season, is coming off a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Real Salt Lake on the weekend in stoppage time. Defender Doneil Henry and midfielder Eric Avila, whose marker is up for MLS Goal of the Week honours, scored in the loss.
“Toronto is a much better team than their results show this season,” said Impact midfielder Sinisa Ubiparipovic. “This Canadian title is important for all clubs participating, so I think we’ll need to put forth our best effort against them on Wednesday.”
The Impact has never beaten TFC in Canadian Championship play, going 0-5-1 in six total matches, despite winning the first ever title in 2008, and making it past the group stage into the quarterfinals of the CONCACF Champions League against Santos Laguna.
TFC has taken the last three titles and were semi-finalists this year, losing to Santos Laguna. On April 4, Toronto FC lost to Mexican first division side in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals by a score of 6-2.
“We talked a bit about how important this game is,” said forward Eduardo Sebrango, who scored three goals against Santos Laguna. “We are taking the game very seriously. Toronto has been in a tough spot recently, so we expect them to come out hard. Any time we can beat Toronto is good for our fans.”
Former German international Torsten Frings has played in the last two games for TFC following a thigh injury that sidelined the midfielder for five games. Defender and Thornhill native Adrian Cann has played in TFC’s last three matches, all starts, after missing almost a year of action due to an injury and sub sequential surgery. He played with the Impact in 2004 and 2005, making 22 appearances and winning a championship in 2004.
- Three Impact players have played all 830 minutes since the start of the season: goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, defender Matteo Ferrari and midfielder Felipe.
- Goalkeeper Greg Sutton, who hails from Hamilton, Ontario, played for TFC from 2007-2009 making 34 appearances, going 9-15-8 and recording seven shutouts.
- Impact forward Eduardo Sebrango, 39, became the oldest player to see game action this season in MLS with his debut last Saturday versus Portland, coming on as a late sub for Bernardo Corradi.
- Defender Zarek Valentin and midfielder Justin Mapp will not play Wednesday after suffering injuries during last game against the Portland Timbers.
- The BMO reds will face the BMO blues for the first time in the Canadian Championship.
- Injury Report: OUT: D Zarek Valentin (right calf contusion); DOUBTFUL: M Justin Mapp (left hamstring strain); PROBABLE: D Gienir Garcia (left knee contusion), D Nelson Rivas (left hamstring strain), M Davy Arnaud (left hamstring train)
Toronto FC may be labouring through a long losing streak but the Reds do not lack confidence ahead of their Amway Canadian Championship first leg semifinal clash against Montreal Impact on Wednesday (Sportsnet Ontario at 8 p.m. ET).
On Tuesday after training, head coach Aron Winter told the media "for sure, 100 percent" that Toronto is the better team and will prove it over two legs. On April 7, Montreal beat Toronto 2-1 for their first victory in any competition over the Reds in the inaugural MLS meeting between the two teams. In Voyageurs Cup competition, it has been a lopsided affair. Toronto has beaten Montreal five times, while in a sixth meeting the Impact clawed out a draw back in 2008 to win the tournament at BMO Field. Since then, it's been all Toronto, winning four straight over their Lower Canada rivals on route to three consecutive Canadian Championships earning a ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League.
Winter inisted that Toronto is going for the win in the first leg with the return fixture at BMO Field seven days later on May 9.
Midfielder Eric Avila was the consensus TFC man of the match last weekend for his fanciful footwork against Real Salt Lake. Although the Reds dropped a 3-2 decision, Avila's strike earned him an MLS Goal of the Week nomination.
Echoing his coach, Avila was in a bullish mood on Tuesday telling the press "we have the skills, we have the players" to get out of the current slump. Avila - having played for Dallas in CCL - was cup-tied in Toronto's long Champions League run in the 2011/12 edition. He feels privileged to be a part of the process from the beginning this time and hopes the Reds can lift a fourth straight Canadian title and dive head first into another continental campaign.
Like Avila, Ryan Johnson joined Toronto at midseason in 2011 but unlike his teammate, the Jamaica international was eligible to participate in Toronto's Champions League onslaught.
Johnson scored five goals for the Reds in CCL, including a crucial brace away to Real Esteli in the preliminary round and the unforgettable strikes against LA Galaxy in both legs of the Champions League quarterfinals. Winter confirmed on Tuesday that the Reds will continue to be without Danny Koevermans (groin) and Nick Soolsma (hamstring) for Wednesday's match, leaving Johnson to assume central forward duties. On Tuesday, Johnson, Reggie Lambe and six-goal CCL man Joao Plata worked with Toronto's director of player development, former England international striker Paul Mariner on finishing. "He is somebody that's an example for me," Johnson said of Mariner, "anything that he says is something to listen and I always listen to what he says."