Toronto FC

Reds kick off rivalry week vs. CF Montréal in Canadian Championship quarterfinal

It’s Toronto FC vs. CF Montréal.

Not once but twice this week, the two great rivals will square off in cup and league action.

Up first is Tuesday night’s Canadian Championship Quarterfinal at BMO Field. The two will reconvene in Montréal on Saturday for an MLS regular season clash at Stade Saputo.

Just one of those quirks of that schedule sprinkled by the football gods.

“It's amazing how often it happens,” said Bob Bradley on Monday. “Somehow with cup draws and everything, [there’s] a cup match and then those same two teams are playing on the weekend.”

Neatly enough, it was a little less than 15 years ago that the two met for the first time in this same competition. Toronto FC won 1-0 that day and in the years since there have been countless memorable encounters, whether in the Canadian Championship, the regular season, or the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Tuesday will be the first for Brandon Servania, who joined TFC from FC Dallas earlier this season. Even before he arrived, Servania knew this game was a big one.

“You can kind of tell from social media and stuff,” he said after training. “I'm just trying to take it as just another game, same routine, not trying to make it too big of a difference – that's just how I personally like to go about it – but I know it's the big rivalry for the fans and the clubs.”

“Definitely an important game,” Servania added. “My first time in the cup as well, so looking forward to playing tomorrow.”

The 24-year-old midfielder smiled as he recalled that his first goal for FC Dallas came in the U.S. Open Cup. And though he subscribes to that ‘just another game’ mantra, he is keenly aware that Tuesday is a different beast, having played in the Texas Derby, where Dallas and the Houston Dynamo battle for bragging rights and possession of a replica 18th century mountain howitzer cannon dubbed El Capitán.

“A big part is the atmosphere. The fans are cheering a little bit louder and there's a little bit more bite in the tackles. It's fun in that way,” highlighted Servania. “I like to take it as another game, knowing in the back of the mind that it is a rivalry and it's going to be a little bit harder in those moments.”

As for that cannon: “It might not be as big as what you're expecting, but it's nice.”

Toronto head into Tuesday’s clash battling a bit of an injury bug that saw Matt Hedges, a late scratch from Saturday’s match against the New England Revolution, and Shane O’Neill, his subsequent replacement, both added to the growing list.

“We've got a lot of questions for tomorrow, there's no doubt,” admitted Bradley.

“There's still choices to be made, but you have less options,” he continued of the selection decisions at hand. “It tests the mentality of the group, but you hope that guys are excited when opportunities come and are ready.”

“You say to them, always, ‘keep going,’” Bradley said of the players not seeing regular action. “We talked about this with Kobe Franklin some weeks back: ‘You're making progress in training every day, we see it, be ready when the time comes.’ He's been a good example of someone who was ready and is doing well. That'll be the case with a bunch of guys as we go through this next stretch because things get busy.”

May will be a busy month. One match down, Toronto will play two this week and two the next. And should they advance past Montréal the prize is yet another fixture added onto the calendar before the month is done.

One player’s absence is another’s opportunity, but not being able to get a consistent XI on the pitch has been an obstacle since the middle of last season.

“There's no doubt we've struggled to have a consistent group on the field and go from one game to the next to the next to the next and feel like things are going in the right direction,” lamented Bradley. “That part makes it harder, there's no two ways about it.”

Said Servania: “It happens. We can only control the things we can control.”

“When you look at the roster we have a great group, but we haven't all been able to be healthy and 100% fit. That plays a factor in who's lining up and how we play a little bit,” he continued. “We’ve just got to look forward. Everyone's ready, guys that have stepped up have done well and we’re just looking to keep pushing.”

After a winless start to the season, Montréal were able to translate their victory in the First Round of the Canadian Championship into league form.


A 2-0 win over League1 Ontario champions Vaughan Azzurri served as a catalyst and Hernán Losada’s side have won all three league matches since by the same scoreline – home to the New York Red Bulls and Orlando City SC, either side of an away victory at Sporting KC.

“Confidence,” highlighted Bradley. “They made a trade, Bryce Duke and Ariel Lassiter have contributed a little bit. With a new coach, some of his ways of working start to be developed better, more time.”

“They play three in the back, similar to when Wilfried [Nancy] was there, but I don't think that all of it's done exactly the same. Those would all be factors,” he closed. “They've turned it around and played well of late.”

Romell Quioto leads the side with three goals, while Mathieu Choinière, Aaron Herrera, and Sean Rea have each contributed two assists.

“They have a good group,” underlined Servania. “They've been playing well lately.”

“Formation is a little bit different with outside wing-backs that like to go forward. We’ve got to keep that in mind,” he added. “They have maybe a little bit of momentum, but we're looking to change that and get some momentum for us.”