In the final match of the 2015 MLS regular season the Montreal Impact knocked off Toronto FC 2-1, securing home field advantage in the knockout round set for Thursday evening. Although a playoff spot had already been secured last weekend against the New England Revolution, the victory on MLS Decision Day provides a boost for an Impact side that has played well at Stade Saputo all season. The three points lock Montreal into a third place finish in the Eastern Conference, the highest ever finish for the club at the end of the regular season.
Nervy Start for the Impact:
"We were a little too individualistic in the first half, but when we simplified things in the second, we were successful" - Didier Drogba
For the second week in a row the Impact came out of the gate slow. TFC was superior in the first half and held the majority of possession through the first forty-five minutes of play. MLS Golden Boot winner, Giovinco almost opened the scoring for TFC in the 5th-minute when he unleashed a long range effort that was pushed away by Montreal keeper Evan Bush. In the 31st-minute Evan Bush was forced into action again as Giovinco dribbled his way past three Montreal defenders before lofting in a perfect cross to Robbie Findley. The American midfielder got his head to the ball, but Bush was in the right place at the right time to come up with another important save for the Impact.
Toronto FC Open the Scoring:
"They are a great team with good players" - Didier Drogba
The TFC pressure could only be sustained for so long and in the 45th-minute, American international striker Jozy Altidore opened the scoring. On a cross from Giovinco that was a carbon copy of his cross fifteen minutes earlier, Altidore made no mistake. Although Bush had come to the rescue on a number of occasions in the first half he could not stop the perfectly placed header from Altidore.
Drogba Does it Again:
"Didier is all class" - Donny Toia
The Impact came out firing on all cylinders to open the second half. The substitution made by Mauro Biello to bring on Dilly Duka for Johan Venegas seemed to spark Montreal. In the 54th-minute Didier Drogba levelled the score after Ignacio Piatti was able to get the ball in front of net. Drobga was able to impose a slight deflection with his back heel on the ball knocking it beyond TFC keeper Chris Konopka. The crowd at Stade Saputo had not even taken to their seats again before 'Le roi' had struck again. In the 55th-minute Drogba scored his second on the evening pushing the Impact into the lead. On a play similar to the first goal, Marco Donadel whipped in a cross and Drogba was wide open to deflect the ball into the back of the net again.
The playoffs! The Impact will take on TFC again on Thursday night at Stade Saputo. The match on Thursday night is a one game winner take all. With a quick turn around it will be interesting to see if Biello will make any changes to his lineup for Thursday. With Venegas going through a difficult spell perhaps Dilly Duka or Justin Mapp (if ready) will be inserted back into the lineup. With Andres Romero out until next year the options in midfield are a little thinner than they were a month ago. One thing is for sure, the Impact are in a much better position this time around to succeed in MLS playoffs than they were in 2013. Tickets for the decisive match on Thursday night are still available and the game will be broadcast on both TSN and RDS for those that cannot be at Stade Saputo.
Game Statistics and Quotes Courtesy of the Montreal Impact:
MTL - GK-Evan Bush; D-Donny Toia, Laurent Ciman, Victor Cabrera, Ambroise Oyongo; M-Nigel Reo-Coker (Hassoun Camara 88'), Marco Donadel, Johan Venegas (Dilly Duka 46'), Ignacio Piatti, Dominic Oduro (Patrice Bernier 78'); F-Didier Drogba
Subs not used: GK-Eric Kronberg; D-Wandrille Lefèvre; M-Calum Mallace; F-Anthony Jackson-Hamel
TOR - GK-Chris Konopka; D-Jackson, Josh Williams, Ahmed Kantari, Justin Morrow; M-Robbie Findley (Herculez Gomez 76'), Michael Bradley, Benoit Cheyrou (Collen Warner 76'), Jonathan Osorio (Luke Moore 88'); F-Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: GK-Joe Bendik; D-Ashtone Morgan, Eriq Zavaleta; M-Marco Delgado
TOR - Altidore (Giovinco) 45'
MTL - Drogba (Piatti) 54'
MTL - Drogba (Donadel, Piatti) 55'
TOR - Jackson 27'
MTL - Cabrera 90+1'