A derby to remember

Canadian Classique set to take place south of the border

For the first time ever, a game between Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact won’t be played in Toronto or Montreal.

Instead, the newest chapter of this intense rivalry heads south of the border to Orlando, where both teams are getting ready to face each other in their second match of the MLS is Back group stage.

You don’t really need to set the stage for a Montreal-Toronto matchup. Players come from all over the world on both sides, yet they instinctively understand the hatred and competition that often goes beyond the pitch.

But I like my food with lots of spice, so let’s pepper this storyline a little.

Both teams are coming off disappointing results in their opening games, and that means only one thing in this type of tournament – this is an absolute must-win game for both sides. A loss for either team would be devastating to their chances of qualifying to the round of 16.

Not to mention that the last time these two teams faced each other, Montreal ended up lifting a trophy at BMO Field on a beautiful fall night in Toronto. I’m sure that image doesn’t sit too well with our rivals one province to the west.

“At the end of the day, it’s a rivalry, whether you play here, at Stade Saputo, or any other stadium,” said head coach Thierry Henry. “That’s the one you don’t want to lose. I don’t have to motivate the players because they already know what time it is.”

Unforeseen circumstances

For those new to the club, this showdown with Toronto FC will be much different from past matchups. No opposing fans to deal with, who can get particularly rowdy on rivalry night, no stressful walk down the tunnel to thousands of jeers and insults; no 12th player.

The fans and the atmosphere are often telling for players experiencing a Canadian Classique for the first time in terms of measuring the magnitude of the rivalry between the two clubs, and that won’t be on display today. Still, there’s always something a little different about these opponents facing each other, no matter who’s in the line-up.

“Some of the other players spoke to me about it,” said centre-back Luis Binks, acquired from Tottenham during the offseason and set to play in his first derby. “I’ve watched videos and read up on it as well. It’s a shame there won’t be any fans, because they’re an integral part of a derby, but it’s still very important. Everyone wants to win this game.”

The game between the Impact and Toronto FC kicks off tonight at 8pm, and is live on TVA Sports, TSN, 98.5 and TSN 690. You can watch the Impact’s pregame show on our Facebook and YouTube as of 7pm.