Toronto FC look to claim a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League next season and earn Canadian Championship bragging rights Wednesday night when they face the Montreal Impact.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Voyageurs’ Cup was not contested in Canada. Instead, Major League soccer grouped its three squads north of the border together for the six matches that comprise Phase One of the reworked schedule, with the club amassing the most points claiming entry to the CONCACAF Champions League for 2021.
Toronto FC (5-2-3) would secure that berth with a victory, entering this contest with nine points from their previous five matches. Montreal (4-3-1) would pull level with the Reds on nine points with a victory, and Thierry Henry’s side would then need just one point from its home-and-home series with Vancouver to finish atop the three-team scrum.
The Reds have dropped back-to-back matches, including a 3-2 setback at Vancouver on Sunday. Alejandro Pozuelo twice helped pull TFC level, first setting up Jonathan Osorio for a goal on 25 minutes an then scoring one of his own in the 71st minute. But Toronto conceded off a set piece – two of Vancouver’s three goals came on dead-ball situations – five minutes later to separate the teams.
“They had maybe four shots (three, according to the stat sheet) in which we give up three goals,” TFC coach Greg Vanney told the team’s official website, adding, “two of them off of set-pieces or second phase stuff, which is a bit infuriating because they weren’t able to get much going, other than the set pieces that we don’t deal with. The first goal we lose a guy running in off the backside.”
“My disappointment is on the goals that we give up. We’ve got to be better than that. You score two goals, you should get something out of the game, at least a point.”
On the bright side, Pozuelo continues to be a menace offensively. The Spaniard leads the league with eight assists and scored twice in the last three games. He has two goals and three assists in five lifetime matches versus Montreal.
The Impact have been idle since edging TFC 1-0 in Ontario on Sept. 1 through defender Rudy Camacho’s goal inside the first quarter-hour. Despite having one of the world’s best all-time strikers as its coach, Montreal has been making strides defensively with three clean sheets in its last four matches.
“A lack of respect? I don’t know,” Camacho said when asked about the brewing animosity between the provincial foes. “They missed the penalty. Too bad for them. It was much better for us. To say if it was a lack of respect or that they took us lightly? I don’t know. You’d have to ask them.
“I don’t think they take us lightly, but we sent a message that we’re still in the race.”
Montreal made an interesting transactional move Tuesday, acquiring an international roster spot for the remainder of the season and 2021 from D.C. United in exchange for $225,000 of General Allocation Money spread over 2020 and 2021. The Impact are not believed to be linked to any player during the extended transfer window, but none of their 11 goals have come from their forwards.