The Montreal Impact will be looking to open Stade Saputo with a victory over rival Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon. The meeting between the two sides, will be the first since the Impact knocked TFC out of the MLS playoffs in 2015. The game could also mark the first time Didier Drogba features in the starting lineup for Montreal in 2016.
With lots to talk about Mount Royal Soccer has turned towards our friends at Waking the Red to get some perspective on the Montreal - Toronto matchup.
1) TFC is off to a solid start to the 2016 MLS season. What has been the biggest factor in Toronto getting off to a positive start?
For the third time in three years Toronto FC made a number of high profile offseason acquisitions this summer. This time, however, all four were known Major League Soccer commodities. For different reasons the foursome of Will Johnson, Clint Irwin, Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour been crucial to the club's start to the season. Irwin is far and away the best goaltender that the club has ever had, not counting the short loan spell that Julio Cesar. He has been Toronto's best player this season, even with Giovinco's creativity, and has made the game saving stops that other Toronto keepers haven't been able to make. In front of him, fellow Rapid turned Toronto FC player Drew Moor has been the leader the Toronto backline has been needing. Steven Beitashour solves the club's problems at right-back, which was their biggest flaw last season. Meanwhile, Johnson has been a revelation alongside Michael Bradley in the midfield. The pair can run all day and provide both skill going forward and coverage for the back line. These acquired players aren't the entire reason, evidently, but they have filled a number of the holes that the club had last season.
2) Coming off the two loses at Stade Saputo last autumn, has Toronto FC turned the corner in the offseason and solidified their defence?
So far so good. A new structured and organized back line, with new players, has made Toronto FC one of the best defensive teams so far this season. They have only allowed five goals so far this season, a big improvement on last year where they allowed over 1.7 goals per game. It starts with Irwin, who makes the team a lot harder to score on once the first line of defence is breached. He has made the back line in front of him look good time and time again. Drew Moor has also been crucial as the defensive general that the club has been missing. His presence allows Damien Perquis to just play and not worry about having to lead the line, which has made Perquis a much better defender. Steven Beitashour has also been massive the right back that the club has been missing. Last year, after an injury to Mark Bloom, Toronto FC rotated a number of players through the position. When the two sides met in the playoffs, it was Jackson who was playing the role. Impact fans may remember him being turned inside out by Ignacio Piatti. That is far less likely to happen this weekend, although evidently it still could.
3) Besides Giovinco, who will be the greatest threat to the Impact backline come Saturday afternoon?
He has not scored this season yet, but Jozy Altidore has played a crucial role in the Toronto attack the past two games. He set up both of Giovinco's goals the past two week, and created several other chances. Altidore started the year injured, and missed the first couple of games as a result. He has just started to return to form, and last game was the best he has been all season. His ability to hold up the ball for Toronto's other attackers makes him crucial to the team's attacking ability. Altidore has always been fairly good against the Impact, one of his best games with the club came in last year's Voyageurs Cup. While all six Toronto FC goals this season have in some way involved Giovinco, it is only a matter of time before Altidore starts finishing chances of his own.