Reds Meet Montreal In Home Finale

Asif Hossain - TorontoFC.ca
Difficult Task

Toronto FC enters the final stretch of the 2012 season on Saturday afternoon with the home finale against top rival Montreal Impact (1:30 p.m. ET on TSN). The Reds will finish the year on the road next week with a CONCACAF Champions League match in Mexico on Wednesday, and the season's last MLS match in Columbus on October 28.

The Reds face a Montreal team that will seek revenge for a 3-0 drubbing suffered in the last meeting. The two sides have experienced diverging fortunes since that June 27 encounter at Stade Saputo. The Impact were on a MLS Cup Playoffs chase that officially ended earlier this month, while Toronto hasn't won in MLS since July 18, drawing three times and losing nine during a 12-game stretch.

Toronto's slump-busting chances suffered a blow during the international break. On Friday afternoon Head coach Paul Mariner confirmed that defender Darren O'Dea returned from the Ireland camp with a thigh injury that will exclude him from Saturday's match. O'Dea joins a long list of injured players on the sidelines, prompting Mariner to jest "we've got 18 fit players in the club, so we'll have 18 players dressing for (Montreal)."

Ready To Go?

O'Dea's absence weakens the Toronto backline and going forward Mariner is similarly shorthanded. Already without forward Danny Koevermans since July 14, Toronto will be missing Ryan Johnson (suspension) and Quincy Amarikwa (hamstring) when Montreal drops in to BMO Field.

Potentially returning to the lineup on Saturday is forward Eric Hassli. The Frenchman scored in his two previous Toronto outings, though he hasn't seen action since September 15 when an ankle injury forced him out of the match. "I will try my best, if I can just play 60 minutes or 70 ... I don't know, my body (will) tell me." Hassli has been severely restricted by a series of injuries since being acquired from Vancouver at midseason. On the significance of this local derby, Hassli says "it's a really important game, especially for our fans. They've had a tough season, they deserve way better." He has three goals from six starts since joining the Reds.

Rookies Meet

Reds' last outing was a 1-0 loss to D.C. United at home where a late goalkeeping error ultimately cost Toronto - unable to take their own chances - a possible point. The club wasn't afraid to attack, outshooting D.C. United and matching the likely playoff-bound team for possession.

Rookie Luis Silva feels the same approach could pay dividends against Montreal in the home finale on Saturday. "I think our last game we did well as a team. I think the energy was there ... the rivalry is really important  and hopefully we get a win." With five MLS goals this season, Luis Silva has enjoyed a positive first year in MLS. He will see another highly touted rookie on the Montreal squad in Andrew Wenger. Both players have been considered by MLS watchers for the rookie of the year award.

New Partnership

With O'Dea sidelined, the role Richard Eckersley plays on Toronto's defence becomes more crucial. Though he prefers to run up the flank playing fullback, Eckersley's talent and leadership has thrust him to the middle of defence where he had formed a partnership with O'Dea. He will be part of a new duo on Saturday and their communication will be key to thwarting Montreal's Wenger and strike partner Marco Di Vaio. 

"We did well against them at their place," Eckersley said recalling the 3-0 win in late June. He admits the 2012 season has been thoroughly frustrating, though around the time of that Montreal battering, the Reds had started a run of good form until injuries decimated the squad and although that's still an issue, eckersley offers hope. "It's a massive rivalry (Saturday) and we are going to approach it like that and give it our all."

The Opposition