MONTREAL – For some clubs, the national cup is a mere distraction from the greater objective: the league. For the Montreal Impact, the national cup is woven into the fabric of the club.
And so, despite Marco Schällibaum’s plans to refresh his XI at BMO Field when the Impact take on rivals Toronto FC in the first leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal on Wednesday (7:30 pm ET, Sportsnet/TVA Sports), Montreal approach the competition with every intention of winning it.
Schällibaum, a winner of the 1983 Swiss Cup with Grasshopper Club Zürich as a 21-year-old, hopes his players get to live a similar experience.
“Winning championships and cups are moments you don’t forget,” Schällibaum told reporters last week. “Those are pure emotions. You can feel it in Switzerland, in Europe and here. The cup is very important, and we take it very seriously.”
So do their opponents, the four-time defending Voyageurs’ Cup champions. If the Impact's clash with TFC in MLS action last month wasn’t a gritty enough affair, the battle to pry the national cup away from the Reds could be a classic of the genre.
“I expect an aggressive, intense game,” vice captain Patrice Bernier told reporters on Monday. “It’s Toronto. Every game against them is difficult, with lots of duels. It’s physical. It’s the ACC – they want to prove something, and they do very well in that competition. Both teams will change players, so both XIs will be fresh. It could lack synchronization, but there’ll be lots of vigor and intensity.”
Who will bring the freshness in the Impact’s lineup is still too early to tell, except between the sticks. No. 2 goalkeeper Evan Bush (above) will get the nod on Wednesday and is generally expected to be handed cup duties this season.
“If I try to go out and showcase myself or try to do something out of my capabilities, that’s going to lead to bad things,” Bush said. “I know what I’m capable of and I think it’ll be enough to go out and have a good performance.”