The greatest sports rivalry in Canada deserves the greatest possible stage: the Eastern Conference Championship. The home leg of this series between the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC takes place at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, November 22, at 8pm (RDS, TSN3, ESPN, ESPN Deportes, 985sports.ca & CJAD 800). Here are 10 things to know about the rivals from Toronto.
The Reds left nothing to chance in the Conference Semis. Their 7-0 aggregate win over New York City FC was an MLS postseason record. 2-0 winners at BMO Field, TFC then walked all over NYCFC, winning 5-0 on goals from Sebastian Giovinco – with a hat-trick –, Jozy Altidore and Jonathan Osorio. Toronto had previously won 3-1 in the Knockout Round against the Philadelphia Union after a hit-and-miss last stretch of the regular season: two wins in its last seven games.
Toronto FC in the playoffs
2007: did not make playoffs
2008: did not make playoffs
2009: did not make playoffs
2010: did not make playoffs
2011: did not make playoffs
2012: did not make playoffs
2013: did not make playoffs
2014: did not make playoffs
2015: lost in Eastern Conference Knockout Round to the Montreal Impact
Current form (regular season and MLS Cup Playoffs)
Greg Vanney (31-30-17 all-time as Toronto FC head coach; 3-1-0 in MLS Cup Playoffs) became TFC head coach on August 31, 2014. He is also the club’s technical director. A professional player for 13 seasons in the United States and in France, Vanney then worked on youth development, most notably at Real Salt Lake and at Chivas USA, before joining TFC in December 2013. After taking on jobs as assistant general manager and TFC Academy director, he became the ninth head coach in club history, replacing Ryan Nelsen.
Regular season top scorer
Sebastian Giovinco (16)
Players to watch
1. Jozy Altidore (#17) – The US international forward has been on fire since he returned from injury, raking in 13 goals and five assists in 19 appearances.
2. Jonathan Osorio (#21) – Osorio is usually more of the provider type, but he’s found his scoring boots of late: three goals in his last four games.
3. Tosaint Ricketts (#87) – He hasn’t been getting starts, but he’s crucial. Coming on as a sub, Ricketts is a handful for the opposition late on and scores the odd important goal.
An eight-game road stretch to start the season gave TFC an opportunity to focus on its defence, and the team has kept on reaping the benefits of that work. The Reds posted the best defensive record and the second-best goal differential in the Eastern Conference this regular season. They are organized in a relatively low block – slightly higher at BMO Field –, with a dense midfield populated with players able to recover the ball and play it forward quickly – the Johnsons, Osorios, Delgados, Coopers and, most of all, Bradleys. Quickness and spaces between the lines remain TFC’s bread and butter. With Altidore’s hold-up play creating gaps for Giovinco to exploit, passing combinations down the middle punish opponents – although they’ve been using the flanks a bit better, mostly when the Italian floats wide. TFC is also one of the teams that shoots the most in MLS, especially through Giovinco, and shots come from pretty much everywhere – meaning that Toronto scores its fair share of goals from outside the box. Set plays are also generally useful for TFC, which has a knack for corner kicks and indirect free kicks. In these playoffs, though, the team has been mostly ruthless in transition – NYCFC defenders committed costly giveaways in their ill-advised attempts to play out of the back, as TFC pressed them. Defensively, the Reds have conceded their fair share of goals down the middle this season, but the backline has mostly held strong, forcing the opponent to look for gaps instead of leaving itself open to a plethora of shots.
Greg Vanney has played different systems this season, but the back three has been a constant in the playoffs. Lineup v. New York City (November 6): Irwin; Zavaleta, Moor, Hagglund; Beitashour, Cooper, Bradley, Cooper, Osorio, Morrow; Altidore, Giovinco.
Most recent games against the Impact
No clear trend has emerged from the Impact’s meetings with TFC this season. In the most recent, on October 16, Toronto managed to clinch a late 2-2 draw at Stade Saputo. On August 27, despite being down a man, the Impact picked up its first-ever win at BMO Field. Nacho Piatti scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win, stunning the Toronto crowd. The Bleu-blanc-noir thus avenged its 2-0 home loss on April 23 and a 4-2 aggregate loss in the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal against the Reds earlier this season.
Injuries, absences and call-ups (as of November 16)