Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, Wednesday at BMO Field, 8 p.m. ET (Rogers Sportsnet East and West in Canada)
What’s at Stake?
Toronto will be looking to build on their 2-0 win over Seattle in MLS league play last Sunday in defending their 2009 Nutrilite Canadian Championship. The match is the first of six on six consecutive Wednesdays, with the winner earning Canada’s lone berth in the CONCACAF Champions League. The game is the second of three matches in seven days for the Reds, so fatigue may be a factor, but the strong performance against the Sounders will provide positive momentum. Coming off their third USL First Division championship last year, Montreal will also have momentum and the benefit of a veteran-laden lineup that formed the nucleus of the 2008 team that made a miracle run to the Champions League quarterfinals.
"Bizarre" is the best way to describe the last match between the Highway 401 rivals. Toronto went into Montreal in the final match of last year’s tournament having to defeat the Impact by five goals to beat out Vancouver for the title on goal difference. After Montreal took the lead, Toronto made the most improbable of comebacks, scoring six straight unanswered goals -- including the decisive goal in second-half injury time -- to rout the Impact 6-1. Tournament MVP Dwayne De Rosario scored three goals, while Amado Guevara scored twice and assisted on another. Montreal rested many of their starters to prepare for a key USL First Division showdown with the Whitecaps days later, prompting the Canadian Soccer Association to institute a policy that requires all three teams to field their best possible lineups for each match.
Heroes and Villains
Dwayne De Rosario vs. Montreal defense: The Toronto captain will have a tough time springing open forwards Chad Barrett and O’Brian White behind the veteran Montreal back line. Impact captain Nevio Pizzolitto and former Toronto FC defender Adam Braz anchor a defense that’s familiar with each other and plays well as a unit, knowing goalkeeper and 2008 tournament MVP Matt Jordan has the ability to make a big save to bail it out of trouble.
Toronto’s midfield vs. Montreal’s midfield: The game may be won in the middle of the field where Impact midfielders Tony Donatelli and Leonardo di Lorenzo are the offensive engines feeding strikers Roberto Brown and goal-poaching Eduardo Sebrango up front. Toronto’s Julian de Guzman will have the dual task of holding Donatelli and di Lorenzo, while providing service up front to help kickstart a struggling Toronto offense that has scored only six goals in five games.
Roberto Brown and Eduardo Sebrango vs. Toronto’s defense: Montreal’s strike force poses a challenge, with the athletic Brown complementing the opportunistic Sebrango. The Toronto defense will have to be organized and aware of the savvy Sebrango, who has strong goal sense and a penchant for being in the right place at the right time despite his lack of pace.
Stats that make you go “Hmm...”
Toronto FC captain Dwayne De Rosario is the tournament’s all-time leading scorer with three goals, all of which came against Montreal in the final match of last year’s tournament.
Toronto are undefeated against Montreal with three wins and a draw.
Montreal scored five goals in winning the 2008 title, but only once in losing all four matches in last year’s tournament.
He said it
"We are not taking them lightly because they have good skilled players that are playing in the MLS for a reason. We will have to shut down a player like De Rosario who is always a threat. We don't want to give them anything, so we'll have to play great defensively as a team.” -- Montreal Impact defender and captain Nevio Pizzolitto on facing Toronto FC.