MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact defeated by clean sheet Toronto FC 1-0, Wednesday night at Stade Saputo, in the first leg of the Canadian Championship final, with Nacho Piatti scoring the game's lone goal, a spectacular long-range shot into the top corner, in the 17th minute.
Montreal now heads to Toronto for the second leg, next Wednesday, September 25, where the Voyageurs Cup will be handed out to the victor.
“It was really important for us to get rid of the heavy load we were carrying on our shoulders after two losses at home,” said Impact head coach Wilmer Cabrera. “Today was a good opportunity, in the first leg of the final, to go out there and shake that off our shoulders, and that’s what we did. It’s a final against a tough opponent, and we didn’t concede, which was very important to us. We have the belief now that we can go to Los Angeles this weekend and continue fighting in MLS.”
Piatti strikes again
The hosts almost grabbed the game’s first goal in the eighth minute following some sustained pressure. Midfielder Saphir Taïder, in possession in the box, crossed to the opposite side for a wide-open Nacho Piatti. The Argentine had difficulty controlling it but got a shot off, goalkeeper Alex Bono making the save comfortably in the end.
Two minutes later, Lassi Lappalainen used his speed to get on the end of a clearance from his compatriot Jukka Raitala, but the Finn’s eventual shot missed just wide.
Montreal continued pressing in the opening quarter, this time attacking from the right side, when Samuel Piette was able to pick out full-back Zachary Brault-Guillard nestled on the flank. The Canadian international whipped in a dangerous cross for Bojan, but the Spaniard couldn’t get his foot on it.
The breakthrough finally came in the 17th minute, when Taïder, in possession in the final third, passed to Nacho Piatti on his left. The Designated Player needed just one touch before unleashing a shot into the top corner, giving Bono no chance and giving the Impact the lead.
It’s Piatti’s fourth goal in the Canadian Championship this year and a club-leading sixth all-time.
Goalkeeper Clément Diop, making his first start since the semi-final second leg against Cavalry FC, was forced to make an outstanding save in the 37th minute, diving to his right and getting a hand on Jacob Shaffelburg’s powerful volley from the top of the box.
“We’re happy to win this game, but we’re happier not to have conceded any goals,” said midfielder Samuel Piette. “We should’ve scored more than a goal, but I think our performance tonight was convincing. If we can repeat this type of performance next Wednesday, we’d put ourselves in good position to win this Canadian Championship.”
Montreal dominant after the break
Montreal picked things up where it left them, creating a good opportunity in the 47th minute following some quick passing in the final third. Finally, Nacho Piatti gained possession at the top of the box and unleashed a shot, but Bono was able to get a hand on it.
In the 54th minute, Taïder picked out Lappalainen’s run in behind the defense. The Finn ran in on goal and tried to chip the goalkeeper, but his attempt trickled just wide of the post.
The visitors created their first opportunity of the half in the 66th minute, when substitute Jozy Altidore was able to find some space and unleashed a shot from a difficult angle, but Diop was well-positioned to stifle the danger.
The home side answered with an effective counter-attack minutes later, leading to a cross into the box that was punched away by Bono, but only to Samuel Piette, waiting atop the box. The Canadian international took a touch and tried picking out the top corner, but Bono dove to make the save.
“A performance like this does a lot of good to the group’s morale,” said defender Zachary Brault-Guillard. “It allows us to put an end to a difficult stretch of games. We did good things today, and it was evident on the field. We took care of the first step successfully, now there’s a big game left to play in Toronto.”
The Impact will travel to California to take on the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday, September 21, at 10:30pm EDT (TVA Sports, 98.5, TSN 690). Montreal will then play the second leg of the Canadian Championship final against Toronto FC on Wednesday, September 25, at 7:30pm at BMO Field. The club will return to Stade Saputo to conclude a sequence of five games in 16 days on Sunday, September 29, at 5pm against Atlanta United for the penultimate game of the MLS regular season (TICKETS – TVA Sports, TSN, 98.5, TSN 690).
MTL – GK-Clément Diop; D-Zachary Brault-Guillard, Bacary Sagna, Victor Cabrera, Jukka Raitala; M-Samuel Piette, Shamit Shome, Lassi Lappalainen (Orji Okwonkwo 78’), Saphir Taïder, Ignacio Piatti; F-Bojan (Maximiliano Urruti 45’+1’) (Clément Bayiha 90’+3’)
Subs not used – Evan Bush, Daniel Lovitz, Rudy Camacho, Amar Sejdic
TOR – GK-Alex Bono; D-Drew Moor, Justin Morrow, Laurent Ciman, Richie Laryea, M-Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley, Nick DeLeon; F-Erickson Gallardo (Alejandro Pozuelo 46’), Jacob Shaffelburg (Marco Delgado 74’), Patrick Mullins (Jozy Altidore 46’)
Subs not used – Quentin Westberg, Ashtone Morgan, Auro, Omar González
MTL – Piatti (Taïder) 17’
MTL – Piette 34’
MTL – Taïder 85’