The Montreal Impact host Toronto FC in a one match playoff elimination at Stade Saputo tonight.With a win the Impact will face the Columbus Crew in the conference semi-final over two legs (home and away).
Having faced each other just four days ago, both teams know what to expect and have a good idea of each other's strengths and weaknesses. The Impact, playing at home, should have an advantage as the Stade Saputo will be boisterous as the fans cheer on the bleu-blanc-noir.
Toronto gave Montreal quite a challenge last Sunday and an argument can be made they were the more dangerous side, especially in the first half, while Montreal were more opportunistic in the second half to win the game.
If the Impact want to beat TFC and advance there are three keys to victory:
(1) Limit Giovinco's time and space
This is easier said than done. Containing the leading candidate to win the MVP won't be easy. However the way to limit Giovinco's time and space is by using a collective trap to make it difficult for TFC midfielders to make passes. If Giovinco doesn't get service, he can get frustrated.
If Mauro Biello will use a 4-2-3-1 again the holding midfielders will need some additional support from the wingers to help on the flanks and block the passing lanes and make life miserable for TFC by shutting down any intricate through balls.
(2) Remain disciplined without the ball
Toronto FC led the last encounter with ball possession (55% vs 45%). That stat doesn't tell the whole story, but if the Impact were to settle on a strategy of counter-attack and let TFC have more possession once again, it will be critical that such possession is sterile.
The Impact can let TFC have possession but be disciplined in their defending and not get too anxious. It was a lack of discipline and inadequate coverage that led to TFC's goal on Sunday. The Impact need to defend as a unit.
(3) Force TFC defenders to make a mistake
TFC were one of the worst defending teams in the MLS (tied with Chicago). Their strategy of spending millions in DPs for the midfield and attack left a weakness at the back end which the Impact must exploit.
Collectively, TFC's defenders and goalkeeper are ripe for the taking. It is critical that the Impact use their speed to push the pace of the game and force their opponent to make a mistake. Drogba has proven how lethal he can be if he gets the ball in the box while Piatti works wonders with his excellent dribbling skills making those marking him scramble.
Under Mauro Biello, the Impact are perfect at home and if they play to their strengths, will continue to remain so.