Toronto FC is 90 minutes away from having a shot at winning the Voyageurs Cup for the fifth straight year in the Amway Canadian Championship. Reds take a 2-0 opening leg lead away to Montreal on Wednesday night (Sportsnet One at 7:30 p.m. ET), a semifinals advantage they hope to build on before facing either Vancouver Whitecaps FC or FC Edmonton for a shot at the Canadian title to secure Canada's only spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.
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Video: Stefan Frei is set to start for Toronto again v. Montreal.
Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei tied a tournament record in the first leg by earning his seventh clean sheet. He was rarely troubled at BMO Field in his 2013 debut and is likely to get the start again on Wednesday night. While some may expect Toronto to be cautious in protecting its advantage, Frei says the Reds will go looking for the all-important away goal to secure this series on the front foot.
"We're only halfway there," Frei said on Tuesday before Toronto departed for Montreal from the Kia Training Ground. "We want to play, we don't want to rest on these two goals. We want to put pressure on them and see if we can get (an away goal)."
Toronto finds itself in an enviable position given Montreal's need to break through. A forward charging Impact squad could open up opportunities for the Reds to counter-attack and capitalize on any openings provided by Montreal. However, injuries have started to take their toll on TFC, the team losing forward Justin Braun to a foot injury on Saturday. Braun, though kept off the score sheet, had a valuable presence in the opposition third in the first match of the semifinals where Doneil Henry and Andrew Wiedeman grabbed the goals.
"Justin's probably unavailable," Head coach Ryan Nelsen conceded on Tuesday. "We're getting a bit thin in terms of numbers," the coach continued but said he plans to field the strongest team possible that is capable of winning the game.
In other player news, Toronto signed the first Young Designated Player in club history late last week in midfielder Matias Laba. The Argentine has made the trip to Montreal however, his availability is pending international clearance, according to Nelsen.
Video: Will Montreal field a strong lineup on Wednesday?
Montreal supporters voiced their displeasure at the club resting many of its regulars in the first leg, opting instead to play them in an MLS match over the weekend in which the likes of Andres Romero, Marco Di Vaio, Daniele Paponi and Felipe led an attacking team to a 2-0 win over Chicago Fire. While Toronto also rested several from its first XI, the Reds managed to find goals and continued their dominance over the Impact in this tournament, recording their seventh win against two draws and no losses.
With public pressure mounting, there is a chance head coach Marco Schallibaum could unleash Di Vaio if not from the start, at some point in the fixture. The Italian forward has scored all four of his 2013 goals at home, where Montreal is unbeaten with three wins and a draw this year.
“We made a lot of mistakes," Schallibaum admitted after the opening leg, insisting his players will learn from this. That could be a hint that he will give his understudies a chance to make amends on Wednesday, though his counterpart Ryan Nelsen expects Montreal to dress a stronger squad. When asked last week if he would send his star players out for the Canadian Championship, Schallibaum said "we'll see down the line."
Regardless of who gets the call Wednesday, two regulars Montreal will have to manage without are defender Alessandro Nesta and midfielder Andrea Pisnau. Montreal's website reports that the Italian duo "re-aggravated injuries" against Chicago.