Though this was a late season game between two teams that are not going to take part in the MLS playoffs it was still felt like an important one. All confrontations between the cities of Montreal and Toronto are hotly contested ones no matter the sport or the calibre of the teams. Each side is seen as representing the sports honour of their city. Bragging rights are worth much. Bottom line is that the game was being played for pride.
Toronto FC has had a much rougher season than the expansion Impact. They have won only 3 games at home out of 16. Hoping that it would help them score some goals, Toronto was happy to have French striker Eric Hassli back in the lineup after an injury. Montreal has had a lot of trouble on the road this season and it is the biggest reason they are not making the playoffs. They have scored 31 goals at home, but only 14 on the road. This lack of goal production on the road has earned them a mere 8 points out of 16 games away from the confines of the Saputo Stadium. Montreal was coming into the game without a win in their last 4 games with a 0-2-2 record.
Montreal had some lineup changes. It started with fiery Coach Jesse Marsch not being eligible to coach his team due to receiving a red card the previous match against Houston. Assistant coach Mike Sorber took over head coaching duties. It had been announced earlier that offensive midfielder Felipe would miss the team’s last two games due to surgery for a sports hernia. Taking his place in central midfield was Calum Mallace. Mallace was starting his second game in a row and his start was a reward for his strong play against Houston. Andrew Wenger was making only his 6th start of the season alongside Marco Di Vaio up front. The team’s number one selection in the draft can learn a lot from the experience of Di Vaio. Collen Warner, back from one game suspension, was playing wide on the right side of the midfield. Captain Davy Arnaud was also making his first start at right full back with Hassoun Camara being moved into the middle with Alessandro Nesta not playing.
Dominating possession of the ball over the early portion of the game, Montreal moved the ball around nicely, but was not really able to create clear cut scoring chances. Having made the trip over to Toronto to support the team, the Ultras made a fair amount of noise urging on the team in blue. Montreal’s first legitimate scoring chance came in the 13th minute when Sanna Nyassi, making his 50th career start in the MSL, played a nicely weighted through ball. The Toronto defenders were caught square and Wenger was able to get to the ball first. His stab at it with his left foot put the ball just wide of the left post.
Around the midway mark of the 1st half it started raining. The rain continued off and on for the entire game making the playing surface rather slick. The rest of the half did not feature what could be described as sparkling play from either side. The only things of note were the couple of yellow cards handed out by referee Jose Carlos Rivera. It was a typical derby game with neither side giving up much.
The second good chance of the game came in the 47th minute and it was once again Andrew Wenger. Warner played a nice ball into the 18 yard box and Wenger got on the end of it. Once again, however, his left footed deflection went wide of the post. Wenger knew he should have done better with that one.
Matteo Ferrari was having himself a strong game in central defence. A calm player with excellent positioning, Ferrari did not have much to do, but when the situation called for it he made at least three very important tackles. He shows plenty of class in the back and keeps things simple.
In the 2nd half Sorber attempts to inject some offence into his side by taking out Mallace, Zeb Brovsky and Wenger while inserting Justin Mapp, Lamar Neagle and Dennis Iapichino. Over the last 10 minutes of the game Montreal did have a couple of golden scoring opportunities, but couldn’t notch the goal that would have won the game. Ultimately the subs were not successful in that respect. Toronto seemed like the perfect team for Montreal to notch a late win off of. They have allowed a league worst 12 goals in the last 10 minutes of games this season.
One of Montreal’s best chances to score was in the 74th minute when Mapp collected the ball and lead a 4-on-2 break into the Toronto end. It was a wasted opportunity as Mapp ended up giving the ball away twice on the play so nothing came of it. Striker Di Vaio was not happy as he was open and Mapp did not even look his way. Di Vaio has a close in chance of his own in the 76th minute, but it was from a severe angle and stopped by Freddy Hall.
Despite the fact that the game looked destined to end scoreless the added on time in the second half provided fans with the most entertaining soccer. In those three minutes there were several quality scoring chances. In the 90th minute Di Vaio had another good chance from in close, but his shot that probably would have beaten Hall was blocked by a TFC defender. In the 90th +2 minutes Warner was able to work himself in close and got a shot across the goal on Hall. The Toronto keeper parried it away for a Montreal corner. In the 90th + 3 minutes there were two good Montreal chances. First was by Mapp whose low shot was pushed out by Hall and the second, which was the better one, was once again Di Vaio who received a great ball from Bernier, who cut it back to him from the end line. Di Vaio tried to connect on a volley, but it went wide.
Montreal’s next game is their last one. It is at home this Saturday against New England and it is Fan Appreciation day, so it should be a lot of fun.
-On-Field Officials: Referee: Jose Carlos Rivera
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 5
-Save: Montreal: 7
-Corners: Montreal: 3
-Cards: Yellow: Montreal – Davy Arnaud – 28th minute, Hassoun Camara – 73rd minute, Sanna Nyassi – 87th minute
Toronto – Terry Dunfield – 39th minute
-Man of the Match: Matteo Ferrari
-Final Score: Montreal: 0