ACC Preview: TFC host Impact with place in final on line
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. TORONTO FC
BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario, May 9, 2012
Amway Canadian Championship semifinal second leg
8 pm ET (Sportsnet Ontario, Sportsnet East)
Toronto FC host Montreal Impact on Wednesday evening at BMO Field (8 pm ET on Sportsnet Ontario & East) for a place in the Amway Canadian Championship finals. The Reds and Impact drew 0-0 in the first leg of the semifinal, setting up the all-important return fixture where Toronto must beat Montreal in regulation, extra time or penalties to advance. Montreal will advance with a scoring draw or win.
The four-team Canadian Championship will determine which club will lift the Voyageurs Cup and earn the right to represent Canada in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League.
If the two teams in the semifinal score the same number of goals over the two legs, the team which scores more away goals is determined as the winner. If this tie-breaker does not produce a winner, then both teams will play two 15-minute periods of extra time after the second leg. If, during extra time, both teams score the same number of goals, the away goals will count as double in favor of the visiting team. If no goals are scored during extra time, then kicks from the penalty mark (in accordance with FIFA Laws of the Game) will be used to determine the winner.
David Gantar is in charge on Wednesday and the MLS referee will likely be hoping for a less eventful outing than his last match on May 5. On that night in a Salt Lake-New England encounter, Gantar dished out a pair of red cards (one to each team) and three yellows. Salt Lake won the match 2-1. Gantar will be assisted by Joe Fletcher and Phil Briere. The fourth official is Silviu Petrescu.
For Homegrown fullback and Canada international Ashtone Morgan, it's a chance to see his local team keep the national title. Toronto has won the Voyageurs Cup three years running and the defender wants this trend to continue in 2012.
"It's massive," Morgan said of Wednesday's match. "We want to defend our title, definitely, and we're going to be playing at home [Wednesday]. What a perfect way to retain the title and go into the final."
WATCH: TFC preview ACC second leg
Any draw with goals will allow Montreal to advance on Wednesday. Another nil-nil affair would cause extra time and possibly penalties at BMO Field. To avoid additional minutes or spot kick drama, Toronto must score more goals than Montreal over 90 minutes and one man who could help in that department is midfielder Eric Avila.
On Tuesday, Avila revealed that players and coaches held a "free-for-all" meeting recently to clear the air. "We're fighting for the shirt, this is who we are," Avila told the media addressing the winless start to the Major League Soccer season that has resulted in some emotions to spill out of the dressing room.
The creative midfielder believes Toronto can put that behind them now and focus on getting by Montreal for a chance at the Voyageurs Cup. The Reds played a conservative style in the first leg, yielding just one shot on goal in a match where Avila was substituted at the hour mark.
The defensive approach adopted in the first leg had Toronto on the back foot for much of the game. Montreal had 66 percent possession, a 12-1 edge on goal attempts and enjoyed nearly twice the amount of pass completions. This put center back Adrian Cann under immense pressure, but the Canadian defender believes Toronto will change their tactics in front of the home fans in a must-win situation.
"It's going to be, I think, a different mentality," Cann admitted to reporters. "I think when we played in Montreal it was very defensive, we sat in, we didn't really play attractive football."
The primary aim of the opening fixture was not to concede. A tight TFC formation and an unwillingness to be adventurous left little space for the Impact to exploit. Returning home and needing goals, Cann is confident he'll see less of the ball on his third of the pitch.
"Coming here [at BMO Field], it's going to be a different story," he said. "We're gonna go at 'em."
While Toronto may wish to change tactics for this match, head coach Aron Winter is not facing optimum conditions when it comes to choosing a squad.
Captain Torsten Frings left Saturday's MLS match against D.C. United with a shoulder injury, and lingering fitness issues with Danny Koevermans and Nick Soolsma has robbed the TFC attack of its depth. Winter put Frings and Koevermans in the "maybe" camp ahead of Wednesday, still awaiting test results on the duo. Soolsma meanwhile, looked more available than his injured teammates.
"Nick is doing it well," Winter said of the Dutch winger. Soolsma took part in scrimmage on Tuesday and could be set to play a role Wednesday.
The Impact (3-5-2), are coming off a big road win over Sporting Kansas City 2-0 last Saturday, with goals by midfielders Felipe and Patrice Bernier, while TFC lost their eighth straight regular season MLS match in 2012 (0-8-0) last Saturday, by a 2-0 score to D.C. United, breaking the MLS record for number of consecutive losses to start a season.
WATCH: Impact preview ACC second leg
“We’ve pushed ourselves each day and each game, and with a lot on the line in this game, we don’t want to have any slip ups,” said Impact head coach Jesse Marsch. “We’ll be ready to put a very good team on the field and to compete. We aren’t very sure what we are going to see from them on Wednesday, but our approach is to stay true to who we are. One thing is for sure, the last 30 minutes of Wednesday’s game will be crazy.”
With a win or a tie by any score, the Impact would qualify for the final aggregate series, scheduled for May 16 and 23 vs. the winner of the other semifinal series. The Vancouver Whitecaps are ahead of FC Edmonton based on a 2-0 away win from last Wednesday's first-leg action. This second leg match kicks off Wednesday at 11 pm ET.
“We want to win this competition,” said Impact forward Eduardo Sebrango. “The team has won this tournament before, and we want to do that again to get the chance to play in the CONCACAF Champions League. We also want to continue to do well to keep the momentum we have in regular season play.”
The Montreal Impact are currently unbeaten in four games over all competitions, and shut out their opponents in the last three of those games (288 minutes), scoring five and conceding only one goal. TFC will be without Designated Player Torsten Frings, who is sidelined once again due to an injury suffered last game.
“Toronto is going to be a desperate team, so it’s going to be hard to know exactly what we are going to see from them on the pitch,” said midfielder Collen Warner. “This tournament is important to us, so we definitely can’t take them lightly.”
- Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts has played every single game for the Impact this season, earning three consecutive shutouts over all competitions.
- The Impact could play as many as six games in 18 days, if the team qualifies for the Amway Canadian Championship finals.
- Midfielder Felipe’s strike against SKC, his first ever in MLS, was nominated for Goal of the Week.
- 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.
- Three players have already appeared in the Canadian Championship before 2012, including defender Jeb Brovsky (Vancouver 2011), goalkeeper Greg Sutton (Toronto 2008, 2009) and forward Eduardo Sebrango (Vancouver 2008 & Montreal 2009, 2010).
- Toronto FC defender Adrian Cann played 22 games with the Impact, in North American second division, in 2004 and 2005, winning the 2004 A-League Championship with the club.
- Injury Report: D Zarek Valentin - Right calf contusion; DOUBTFUL: M Justin Mapp - Left hamstring strain