Even before the first game of the MLS Eastern Conference finals there were several typically Montreal things that happened. First off, Montreal is a city which gets behind a winner and loves events. In that regard, it is really no surprise that over 61,000 people hauled their butts all the way to the decrepit Olympic Stadium on a cold November evening. Second was that the officials were late getting to the game (and that affected the next point) due to the crazy traffic here due to construction. Because the officials were late getting there they only noticed that the dimensions of the 18 yard box were off minutes before kick-off. Oops! Lastly, once they realized they would have to redo the white lines of the box it took about eight guys standing around to figure things out. Ah, I love this city. All this happening and causing the game to start 38 minutes late while TSN, RDS and ESPN captured it on camera.
With every single person of the 61,004 (minus the roughly 2,000 Toronto FC fans in a corner section) cheering lustily for the bleu-blanc-noir the home side began the game like they were shot out of a canon. Speaking of speed, all week our freak fast (his Twitter handle) guy Dominic Oduro had been saying that if Toronto used their typical formation it would be like Christmas for him. Ten minutes into the game it was apparent he was not whistling into the wind. Hometown boy and team captain Patrice Bernier placed and perfectly angled and weighted ball into a corridor which only Oduro could get to. Then it was a gallop along the right hand side of the pitch unimpeded to the Toronto net. Despite his incredible speed throughout his career Oduro has been criticized due to his lack of polish and finish. None of that was in evidence as he cleanly beat Toronto keeper Clint Irwin with a low, well-placed shot.
Fans went wild. This was more than they expected a mere 10 minutes into a game most expected to be a pitched battle. Then, even before many fans had settled back into their seat, Montreal doubled their lead. It started with the scorer of the first goal, Oduro collecting a botched clearance deep in the Toronto end and feeding the ball to Ignacio Piatti wide to the left. Not allowing the Toronto defense the time to collect themselves he one touched a cross to striker Matteo Mancosu. His volley found the back of the net and the place went wild. 2-0 Montreal just 12 minutes in. Incredible! Toronto looked stunned.
The rest of the first half went along uneventfully. Which was in Montreal’s favour. Toronto did not seem to have any answers for the Montreal style of play. Throughout the first 45 minutes they were not able to generate any type of offense.
As the 2nd half started Montreal did not seem to have taken the foot off the gas. Winger Ambroise Oyongo collected the ball just inside his own half and ran with it through the middle of the pitch for 35 odd yards without really being touched or challenged. He was so free he was able to look up and place a shot from just outside the infamous 18 yard box that eluded a diving Irwin. 52 minutes in and it was 3-0 Montreal. Wow!
At this point you had to think that the Montreal players and their coach Mauro Biello decided to close up shop and just ride out the remaining 40 minutes. That is usually the way in soccer and sometimes comes back to bite you in the butt. Montreal sat 10 men behind the ball and did plenty of time wasting allowing Toronto to just move the ball around at will. Eventually you are going to be put to sleep by this tactic as the defensive side and Toronto would be there to pounce on the smallest mistake.
The Impact fell asleep defensively for 5 minutes and that was all it took for Toronto to notch two very important away goals in the 68th and 73rd minute by Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. It was now tight collar time for the last 20 minutes. Once you have shut down the machine it is hard to get it going again. Montreal could not really generate enough offense to score another goal with their best chance coming via substitute Didier Drogba, who outmuscled two Toronto FC defenders for a ball, but lashed his shot wide of the post to Irwin’s right. Montreal did manage to hang on for the 3-2. In some respects the win felt a little like a loss due to the fact that they caught Toronto on an off night and a clean sheet to match their 3 goals was well in the home side’s grasp.
The second game of the series will take place next Wednesday, November 30 at BMO Field in Toronto. A tie or an Impact victory will see them go through to the finals. History will be made no matter who goes through as they will be the first Canadian team to make the MLS finals.
-Goals: 1st Half:
10th minute: Montreal – Dominic Oduro assisted by Patrice Bernier
12th minute: Montreal – Matteo Mancosu assisted by Ignacio Piatti and Dominic Oduro
53rd minute: Montreal – Ambroise Oyongo assisted by Patrice Bernier
68th minute: Toronto – Jozy Altidore assisted by Sebastian Giovinco and Steven Beitashour
73rd minute: Toronto – Michael Bradley assisted by Jozy Altidore and Tosaint Ricketts
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 4
Toronto – 5
-Corners: Montreal – 2
Toronto – 4
-Attendance: 61,004 (sold out)
-Final Score: Montreal – 3
Toronto – 2