In terms of soccer, the Montreal-Toronto rivalry is a young one. In terms of history, it is a very old and complex one. On Saturday, the rivalry will be renewed with a massive three points in the Eastern Conference up for grabs.
When the playoff brackets are filled at the end of October, either team may point their finger back at this match and say, "This is the one that did it," or worse yet, "This is the one that ended it."
In build up to the game, we countdown the top six moments between the Montreal Impact and Toronto F.C. from 2008 to the present.
6. Large Stade Olympique crowd sees Impact triumph
In the early goings of the 2013 campaign, Toronto travelled east to Montreal for a March 16 matchup. With the chill of the Canadian winter still lingering, the game was contested indoors at the Stade Olympique. A raucous home crowd, along with a strong visiting contingent of Toronto fans, combined for a total attendance of 37,896.
To put that in comparison, the average attendance that year for Montreal was 20,603, while Toronto averaged 18,131. The MLS average was 18,608. Whether it be home or away, it was the second largest crowd Montreal played in front of (Seattle hosted Montreal and had 1,102 more fans one week earlier). For Toronto, it was the largest crowd of their season.
What the highest recorded crowd in the history of the 401 Derby saw was a tightly contested game ultimately won by the home side. In the 34' minute, Ashtone Morgan took down Andres Romero (both still current players for their respective clubs) in the box and the official pointed to the spot. Patrice Bernier converted to give the Impact the one goal advantage.
With two minutes added to prolong to the first half, Marco Di Vaio found the back of the net as well. Played into the area with an appetizing through ball by Davy Arnaud, the Italian evaded Toronto keeper Joe Bendik and roofed the ball into the gaping goal. While Toronto were able to pull one back via a penalty kick late in the second half, the Impact held on for the three points and a third straight victory to start off the year. The game was a foreshadowing of each club's fortunes that season as Montreal went on to finish 14W, 13L, 7D and qualify for the post season, meanwhile Toronto ended with a 6W, 17L, 11D mark.
5. Toronto's "Big Three" shine bright
The MLS is becoming a haven for big name players from all areas of the world. Beckham, Henry, Gerrard, Pirlo, and Lampard are just a handful that come to mind. Critics call the league's influx of star players, a lot of whom are past their prime, the outcome of MLS' reputation of being a retirement league. Tell that to Toronto's Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore - all of whom are in the prime of their careers.
In the first 2015 league edition of the 401 Derby, this was never more apparent All three scored unanswered goals as the Reds rebounded from an early Ambroise Oyongo goal to win easily at home. Bradley evened the score less than ten minutes after the opening goal. He then found his United States teammate, Altidore, in the second half for the go-ahead goal. Giovinco, a strong candidate for MVP and the Golden Boot as top scorer, finished the game with a successful penalty in the 82' minute, capping off another strong game by the Italian.
4. Montreal reverses the tie in the most dramatic way
It isn't uncommon to see a team drop the first fixture of a two leg playoff and then proceed to go on to win the tie in the return leg. It is, however, quite rare when the return leg is completely lopsided and the aggregate is completely flipped on it's head.
Perhaps Bayern Munich reversing a 3-1 opening result and winning the return leg 6-1 versus Porto in the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League comes to mind. For those familiar with CONCACAF CL, Club America reversing a 3-0 opening defeat and beating Herediano 6-0 last tournament is another good example.
For followers of Canadian soccer and the Amway Canadian Championship, the 2013 semifinal matchup between Toronto and Montreal sticks out.
After losing the first game in Toronto 2-0, the Impact stormed back one week later to win 6-0 (6-2). Two goals from Di Vaio, and single tallies from Romero, Justin Mapp, Daniele Paponi and Andrew Wegner gave Montreal the widest margin of victory in derby history, a record that still stands to this day.
Montreal would go on to lift the Voyageurs Cup for the first time since 2008, and Toronto's streak of four titles in a row was broken.
3. Felipe's celebration irks Greg Vanney as tempers flair
When Montreal paid a visit to BMO Field on October, 18, 2014 to take on Toronto, their objective was to play the spoiler. At the bottom of the Eastern Conference basement, the Impact's playoff dreams were long gone by the time the second last game of the season rolled around. Toronto, on the other hand, had a small but certainly valid shot at locking up the final playoff spot. Mathematically they would need some help from other teams, but it would be all for not if they couldn't defeat Montreal first.
A game that featured two Toronto players who tomorrow will be wearing blue, Dominic Oduro and Kyle Bekker, it was a feisty game with loud support for both sides in the stands. When the Impact's Felipe cancelled out Warren Creavalle's early strike, the Brazilian taunted the home supporters behind the goal, something that drew post game criticism from Toronto's manager.
"I've always felt like it's classless to go and taunt opposing supporters," the Reds' manager said. He would also go on to say, "I would have had my way of dealing with it on the field."
Vanney wasn't the only person who had a bone to pick with Felipe. After the Brazilian drew a foul on Jonathon Osorio, who was immediately shown a straight red, goalkeeper Joe Bendik aggressively picked up the Impact midfielder off the ground and that sparked some pushing and shoving from both sides. Bendik was given a yellow card for his actions, while Osorio became the second player to receive marching orders in the match. Montreal's Hassoun Camara would pick up his second yellow in the last minute of play to bring out the third red card of the game.
With a 1-1 final, neither team would be enjoying a post season experience in 2014.
2. Toronto F.C. records wild victory, wins Canadian Championship on goal differential
This one will get fans of the Vancouver Whitecaps both fuming and scratching their heads. In 2009, the Canadian Championship was still in a three team round robin format. Entering the final matchup, Toronto needed to win by four goals to leap ahead of Vancouver for first place in the tournament on goal differential. After Montreal, who was already eliminated from trophy contention, converted a penalty in the early goings, the mountain got even steeper. Toronto now needed five.
Not to worry. Behind a Dwayne De Rosario hat trick, an Amado Guevara brace, and a Chad Barret header, the Reds did the impossible and a recorded a 6-1 victory. It ripped the trophy right out of the hands of Vancouver, who were ironically at Stade Saputo watching that night as they were facing Montreal in league action in the following days.
It kickstarted Toronto's streak of four consecutive Canadian Championships.
1. Montreal seals Canadian Championship at home with a Felipe injury time winner
Number one on our countdown goes to Felipe's winner in the 2014 Canadian Championship. It gets the first place nod because of the nature of the goal, as well as the implications it had on the winners.
After drawing 1-1 in the first leg at Toronto, the teams collided at Stade Saputo for Canadian supremacy once again. Needing a goal, Toronto's attack led by Jermaine Defoe probed the Montreal defense throughout the game. Jonathan Osario was unlucky as his shot hit the post late in the second half. It was as close as Toronto would get.
In the 91st minute and on the counter attack, Di Vaio cut across the field just outside of the box and let go a rising shot. It, like Osorio's earlier, would also find the woodwork. This time, however, the ball fell on a platter for Felipe who would chest it down and bury it in the back of the net. This kicked off a wild celebration as Felipe dashed toward the corner flag, waving his jersey, and Montreal would go on to win it's second consecutive Voyageurs Cup.
The dramatics of that game cemented the desire by both teams to win the Canadian Championship and the passion of the 401 derby. It also was the cornerstone of Montreal's historic run to the CONCACAF Champions League final where they set several Canadian club records along the way.
Saturday, August, 29, 2015
With a huge three points on the table in the Eastern Conference, the two teams will meet again tomorrow at BMO field. As the playoff picture begins to be painted, tomorrows game could land itself on the next countdown of top 401 Derby moments.
*Note: I am fully aware of the fact that Highway 401 begins/ends in Bainsville, Ontario and Autoroute 20 (Autoroute du Souvenir) begins/ends in Rivière-Beaudette, Quebec. For purposes related to the nickname used by MLS Rivalry Week, I have used the term 401 Derby as well.