Tomorrow’s 20/401 derby at Stade Saputo is a game with huge significance for a number of reasons. The first being the standings; Toronto sits just seven points behind the Impact in the Eastern Conference. Secondly, the return of former Impact defender Laurent Ciman in the colours of Montreal’s biggest rival. Last but by no means least, it is simply the most heated derby in MLS - this match-up has deep roots in culture and other sports.
The Derby (including post-season clashes) sits at 9 Montreal wins, 4 draws and 10 Toronto wins in MLS play. The Impact had the edge last season winning both match-ups at home against their rivals and losing once away.
Something will be missing from this derby which both teams’ fan-bases have been used to watching; Italian striker Sebastian Giovinco on the Toronto side, and Argentine maestro Ignacio Piatti for Montreal. Giovinco was transfered to the Saudi Arabian league after failing to agree terms at TFC. Piatti is sidelined due to an on-going knee injury which has restricted him to only 5 games this season.
Both players have been stars of this derby for the last 5+ years combining for 20 goals between the pair. Each currently share the derby’s all time scoring record with 10 goals along with TFC and United States international striker, Jozy Altidore. So look for new players on both sides to step up and deliver within this bitter rivalry.
The Impact hope to leave their most recent match in the rear-view mirror, a disappointing loss shrouded in controversy. The 2-3 reverse to Minnesota United despite a spirited effort, contained controversial calls and major defensive blunders. IMFC is now 0-3 all time against Minnesota United and sit 4th in the Eastern Conference with a 9-9-3 record giving them 30 points from 21 matches.
The Impact will greet a Toronto FC squad sitting in 7th place in the East with a 6-8-5 record for 23 points. The match-up has the potential to change the tide for both squads as Toronto would move to 26 points with a game in hand on the Impact should they win. But a home win moves Montreal to 33 points pushing them up the standings and widening the gap between them and 7th spot.
All signs point to a must-win game for both sides, a really crucial and meaningful derby. Montreal for the first time this season have just lost two matches in a row and have been inconsistent since March, much like Toronto and cannot afford a loss with New England and Orlando each in better form, chasing the Reds for that final playoff spot.
The respective squads are relatively healthy and intact. Montreal looks to welcome back midfielder Michael Azira and leftback Daniel Lovitz after successful spells with their respective national teams. Like Piatti though, Impact’s Clement Bayiha remains sidelined with a quad injury, and recent blooming star Orji Orkwonkwo is doubtful.
Toronto are without defender Drew Moor (hamstring). On the flip side for the Reds they get captain, Michael Bradley back and star striker Jozy Altidore, after the United States 1-0 loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup final. Both players played an integral part in their country’s run to the final and will be expected to start on Saturday evening.
With both teams’ former superstar players out of this derby whether via transfer or injury, a new chapter begins.
For the Impact, look no further than Algerian international and designated player, Saphir Taider, to play a pivotal role. Taider has 8 goals and 3 assists on the year and appears to be on top form following the Impact’s three-week break.
Taider will need to be on his ‘A’ game for his side to win. The Impact will look to Omar Browne and Maxi Urruti to make their mark. Browne has 2 goals and 2 assists on the year and possesses the quality and ability to influence a game. He’s also scored against Toronto FC this season, for his Panamanian club, in the CONCACAF Champions’ League.
The Impact will hope for more of Omar’s magic after he had two decent efforts in the loss to Minnesota.
Striker Maxi Urruti sits with only 1 goal but has 5 assists and adds other qualities to the Impact. He presses the opponent and holds and distributes the ball well. The only thing missing currently, is his scoring touch. Montreal will hope his nose for goal returns this weekend.
Toronto will lean on newcomer, Alejandro Pozuelo, a flashy, skilled midfielder who has amassed 7 goals and 8 assists since arriving from Belgian soccer. This team wins and loses with Pozuelo, now a key to any Toronto success.
Jozy Altidore, a strong Gold Cup behind him, will look to carry that form into Saturday. Altidore has 5 goals and 3 assists this season, and has been a thorn in Montreal sides for many seasons. Overall both teams possess speed and skill - it will be a matter of which steps up and which fizzles away under the pressure.
The matchup is undoubtedly one of Montreal’s biggest games of the season. They will need your support, Saturday, a noisy sold-out stadium can make a difference.
This is a fixture that runs deeper than soccer, it has culture-clash, and a city rivalry already manifested in sports, mainly hockey. Why not free up your Saturday for an intense rivalry game like no other, on a beautiful, sunny Montreal evening. Hope to see you there. Allez Montreal!!
IMFC - Bush - Sagna, Raitala, Diallo, Lovitz - Browne, Shome, Piette, Krolicki, Taider - Urruti
TFC - Westberg - Laryea, Zavaleta, Mavinga, Morrow - Bradley - Pozuelo, Delgado, Osorio, Sheffelberg - Altidore
Match Officials - Information not yet available
Will the Impact go back to winning ways or fizzle away in the pressure of a 20/401 derby?
Will the Impact triumph in victory or disappoint with a defeat?
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