With August drawing to a close we’re getting a clear look at where Toronto FC stands in the Eastern Conference.
Last weekend’s 5-0 thrashing of Orlando City SC, combined with losses by Montreal and New York City, opened a small gap between the Reds and the bottom tier of the playoff race. Now Greg Vanney’s side has their sights set on making ground on the teams ahead of them. That process begins with Saturday’s match against the Impact at BMO Field.
It’s been a busy few weeks for Montreal. Didier Drogba’s ballyhooed debut coincided with a 1-0 loss at home to Philadelphia. The Impact travelled across the country for the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship against Vancouver before making their way back east. Drogba will not play on Saturday due to a nagging toe injury.
Will the Impact be playing on tired legs this Saturday as a result of their difficult travel schedule? That’s one of the main questions heading into a big 401 derby tilt at BMO Field.
Here are three keys to the match.
Montreal Travels Across The Country
The Whitecaps made history on Wednesday at BC Place, capturing their first Voyageurs Cup at the expense of the Impact.
Victor Cabrera’s red card in the 30th minute changed the complexion of the match and Montreal couldn’t recover.
Manager Frank Klopas and his players cited Cabrera’s dismissal as the game changing moment.
“It hurts, but we’ve got a game on Saturday that is important to us, so we have to move on,” said goalkeeper Eric Kronberg.
Montreal’s heavy travel schedule could play a factor in Saturday’s match.
A number of regulars, including standout defender Laurent Ciman, played 90 minutes on turf in the loss.
Clean Sheet Continuation
TFC played D.C. United to a 0-0 draw at BMO Field on June 27. That was the last time the Reds managed to record a clean sheet until last Saturday’s dominant performance.
Chris Konopka made his first start in goal since mid-July, but it really didn't matter who was in net. Orlando’s offence was non-existent, save for one dangerous free kick that was stopped by Konopka.
A tactical switch was credited with the performance against Orlando.
“The idea was to get pressure higher up the field,” said Vanney. “The matchups became a little bit more straightforward: It was our outside guys against their outside backs; the midfielders were three-against-three; that's why they had a hard time getting out of their half.”
In this case, the best defence was a good offence.
Ignacio Piatti will not play on Saturday due to a calf injury. It’s a big loss for Montreal as Piatti has proven himself to be one of the most dynamic midfielders in the league.
Piatti’s absence could open things up for TFC in the midfield. Michael Bradley and his cohorts dominated their Orlando counterparts last Saturday.
With Montreal coming off an intense travel schedule and missing one of their best players in Piatti, the Reds should look to get pressure higher up the field. That was the plan against Adrian Heath’s side and it worked quite well.
Buy Tickets for Saturday's match or watch it on TSN at 4 PM ET.
Article updated on August 18, 2015.