Reds-Impact: Rivals Meet Again Wednesday

Asif Hossain - TorontoFC.ca
Canadian Challenge

Toronto FC hosts Montreal Impact on Wednesday evening at BMO Field (8 p.m. ET on Sportsnet Ontario & East) for a place in the Amway Canadian Championship Final. The Reds and Impact drew 0-0 in the first leg of the semifinal, setting up the all-important return fixture where Toronto must beat Montreal in regulation, extra time or penalties to advance.

For homegrown fullback and Canada international Ashtone Morgan, it's a chance to see his local team keep the national title. Toronto has won the Voyageurs Cup three years running and the defender wants this trend to continue in 2012. "It's massive," Morgan said of Wednesday's match. "We want to defend our title, definitely, and we're going to be playing at home (Wednesday). What a perfect way to retain the title and go into the final."

Clear The Air

Any draw with goals will allow Montreal to advance on Wednesday. Another nil-nil affair would cause extra time and possibly penalties at BMO Field. To avoid additional minutes or spot kick drama, Toronto must score more goals than Montreal over 90 minutes and one man who could help in that department is midfielder Eric Avila.

On Tuesday, Avila revealed that players and coaches held a "free-for-all" meeting recently to clear the air. "We're fighting for the shirt, this is who we are," Avila told the media addressing the winless start to the Major League Soccer season that has resulted in some emotions to spill out of the dressing room. The creative midfielder believes Toronto can put that behind them now and focus on getting by Montreal for a chance at the Voyageurs Cup. The Reds played a conservative style in the first leg, yielding just one shot on goal in a match where Avila was substituted at the hour mark.

Change Of Pace

The defensive approach adopted in the first leg had Toronto on the backfoot for much of the game. Montreal had 66% possession, a 12-1 edge on goal attempts and enjoyed nearly twice the amount of pass completions. This put centre back Adrian Cann under immense pressure, but the Canadian defender believes Toronto will change its tactics in front of the home fans in a must-win situation.

"It's going to be, I think, a different mentality," Cann admitted to reporters. "I think when we played in Montreal it was very defensive, we sat in, we didn't really play attractive football." The primary aim of the opening fixture was not to concede. A tight TFC formation and an unwillingness to be adventurous left little space for the Impact to exploit. Returning home and needing goals, Cann is confident he'll see less of the ball on his third of the pitch. "Coming here (at BMO Field), it's going to be a different story. We're gonna go at 'em."

Missing Pieces

While Toronto may wish to change tactics for this match, head coach Aron Winter is not facing optimum conditions when it comes to choosing a squad.

Captain Torsten Frings left Saturday's MLS match against D.C. United with a shoulder injury, and lingering fitness issues with Danny Koevermans and Nick Soolsma has robbed the TFC attack of its depth. Winter put Frings and Koevermans in the "maybe" camp ahead of Wednesday, still awaiting test results on the duo. Soolsma meanwhile, looked more available than his injured teammates. "Nick is doing it well," Winter said of the Dutch winger. Soolsma took part in scrimmage on Tuesday and could be set to play a role Wednesday.

The Opposition

The Officials

David Gantar is in charge on Wednesday and the MLS referee will likely be hoping for a less eventful outing than his last match on May 5. On that night in a Salt Lake-New England encounter, Gantar dished out a pair of red cards (one to each team) and three yellows. Salt Lake won the match 2-1. Gantar will be assisted by Joe Fletcher and Phil Briere. The fourth official is Silviu Petrescu.