The Two Solitudes Derby is one of the most exciting rivalries in Major League Soccer. The teams in Texas have some fun with their cannon, and animosity always runs high between the teams in Cascadia, but only those can even attempt to challenge the fire that burns when the Montreal Impact meets Toronto FC on the pitch.
This is the first part in a series covering the Montreal Impact - Toronto FC rivalry, previously known as the 401 Derby.
Part of the reason the rivalry burns so bright is the history between the cities. Montreal and Toronto have long been rivals – in sport, in business, in culture.
They represent the cultural and population centres of French Canada and English Canada, which inspires everything from "sibling rivalry" to genuine hostility, depending on the person.
The corporate space in the two cities also generates a rivalry. Many businesses have relocated from Montreal to Toronto, and the Bank of Montreal (which is a major naming-rights sponsor for both teams) even operates something of a split-headquarters, officially still based sur l'Île but housing most of its top executives in the Toronto office.
And, of course, the long standing rivalry between the Maple Leafs and les Canadiens. Even those of us Canadians who don't have much love for the frozen sport they play can appreciate the long and storied history and the passion with which the fans despise one another.
Thanks to the supporters group culture of soccer, the Two Solitudes Derby already feels like it burns as bright as the century-long Habs-Leafs rivalry. I've been to games in both stadiums, with varying opponents, and both places always feel most alive during derby games. I also truly believe that someday soon it will get the mainstream attention it deserves. In the meantime, Mount Royal Soccer has you covered.
First, let's take a look at the all-time record:
Montreal – 7 wins
Toronto – 13 wins
Draws – 7
The first six of those games (5-0-1 in Toronto's favour) were played while Montreal was still a lower division side. A "weaker" club that still managed to win the 2008 Canadian Championship and reach the quarterfinal in the CCL, I might add.
It is believed that Toronto's greatest win in the series, a 6-1 thrashing at home in Stade Saputo back in 2009, was actually so drastic because Montreal rolled over to keep the Voyageurs' Cup in eastern Canada.
I hope that that's true. It's a beautiful idea that the bitterest Canadian rivals still have each other's backs when someone threatens to beat us both. It worked, too – the Vancouver Whitecaps only won their first Cup just last year. Fourteenth time's the charm, Whitecaps!
Since joining MLS in 2012, Montreal's record is 7-8-6 (4-5-3 in season/playoff matches), which means a Montreal win on Saturday would put the series even at 8 wins. Montreal would have a slight edge on goals scored, since the teams both sit at 27. With a minimum of four more meetings this season, I think tying the series to kick it off is the most exciting outcome Saturday could bring. (What? What bias?)
It also doesn't hurt the hype for this match that both teams are hot right now. The MLS website is calling them 'titans'.
The most recent meeting between the first teams was a 1-1 draw in a February pre-season game down in the Tampa Bay Area. Neither team fielded their star players, but it was a chippy derby match all the same. This was also the first time the teams met in a friendly, even if the match wasn't particularly.
The Amway Canadian Championship makes up just over half of the two teams' all time meetings, and Montreal has made the most of the top prize for winning it. Their record against Toronto in the tournament is 3-8-3, or a very even 3-3-2 in the years the clubs have spent together in the top flight. They will meet again in the semifinal this year, with home-and-home on June 1st and 8th.
A lot of Canadian fans don't think much of the tournament, in part because of the small number of teams that participate, and in part because of the Wednesday night game schedule (even the final!) that makes it harder for fans to attend. At the very least, the Impact take the tournament seriously, which nearly always brings us extra excellent derby games.
The USL derby, which began only just last year, skews slightly in Toronto's favour. Let's look at their table:
The lower division sides met just over a week ago, with Toronto FC II securing a 2-1 victory over FC Montreal. Notably, TFC II won 2-0 over Montreal to open the season last year, and then the Impact won at home shortly after that. Perhaps our USL side losing the "little derby" will become a good luck charm for Montreal to top the senior squad!
The FC Montreal and Toronto FC II are scheduled to meet twice more this year.
- Curious about the new name? The 401 doesn't actually extend into the province of Quebec, it's an Ontario highway. The first (or final, depending on your perspective) 14% of the journey between the two cities happens on A-20.
The "Two Solitudes Derby" name was selected by the Mount Royal Soccer staff to make this important rivalry a little less dull in name. "Two Solitudes" was the title of a novel by Hugh MacLennan published in 1945, and the term came to be used in the Canadian lexicon to refer to the disconnect, and the contentment with it, between French and English Canada. Today, that clash of cultures lives on in sport, making this new name perfect to capture the spirit of the derby.
- Montreal has never won at BMO Field. They've found five draws, but never a victory. Meanwhile, Toronto has won at Saputo a whopping five times out of twelve, but only two of those have come in the MLS era.
- Didier Drogba already has 3 goals in games against Toronto. The record is 4, shared between Jozy Altidore, Dwayne de Rosario, and Marco Di Vaio. I think the Legend will easily add another crown to his collection over the course of this season – perhaps even over the course of Saturday's game. Oduro also sits at 3 goals, all scored for Montreal.
- Before TFC was around, Montreal's greatest rival was the Rochester Rhinos, who play in the same USL conference as FC Montreal. It would be great to see that spark re-ignited as FC Montreal continues to improve and the championship-defending Rhinos remain a lower division juggernaut.