Montreal Impact will not take the challenge of Jimmy Brennan’s York9 outfit lightly tomorrow evening, at York Lions Stadium on the University’s Keele campus.
It’s a chance for the Impact to bounce back after losing two games in succession for the first time this season. It’s also a welcome break from MLS-play, and starts the campaign to return to the CONCACAF stage, last graced in 2015 when the final was reached. It’s been too long since.
The Montrealers will be aware that opposition from a lower level almost eliminated them during that last run to a successful Canadian Championship. Only a very late and dubious penalty converted by Patrice Bernier saved the day at Stade Saputo against Edmonton FC.
York9 has struggled in it’s first half-season of CanPL play, finishing a disappointing 6th (from 7), seven points adrift of Forge FC in 2nd, and 13 short of table-toppers, Cavalry FC. Their main problem is in hitting the net consistently as 9 goals for suggests, but they do possess sound defence, leaking only 11 across the first 10 games.
It’s hard to see where goals will come from when they take on the Impact in their first meeting with a higher-level foe. In four of their last five league matches, they have failed to score, a 3-1 first-ever away win (over Valour FC), the only exception within the sequence.
To get this far, York9, the name represents the nine different municipalities in the York region, has already faced Quebec opposition when they narrowly squeezed past AS Blainville (and former Impact central defender Wandrille Lefevre), 1-0 on aggregate. Ryan Telfer who saw game-time with Toronto FC last season, notched the only goal in the 70th minute of the second-leg, at home.
Next up was FC Edmonton who were beaten 3-1 at the narrow York Lions Stadium. The Eddies clawed a goal back in the dying embers of the return leg, but it was too little, too late.
The issue of pitch dimensions is not lost on Impact captain, Samuel Piette, nor is the tenacity expected from a side with nothing to lose and one which will be up for a giant-kill.
”We are playing on one of the biggest fields of the MLS. On a smaller pitch, it’s going to be a battle, and they’ll have the knife between their teeth because they’ll want to make a good impression.”
York FC’s Manny Aparicio simply calls it, “The biggest game in club history.”
“It’s exciting,” said York9 coach Jimmy Brennan. “It’s great for the game. Our guys are really looking forward to playing against a historic club that has been around a long time.
“[Montreal] have done a wonderful job building the stadium, building the club to where it is today. We hope to get there one day too with York9. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”
Montreal will rest goalkeeper Evan Bush, who misses his first game since last season’s Canadian Championship, ending a run of 33 consecutive appearances. Clement Drop has deputized on the bench in every one of those, and gets his opportunity tomorrow evening.
Expect changes aplenty, for while Remi Grade will not take tomorrow night’s challenge lightly, he will rest some of his key players with an eye on the crucial meeting with Toronto FC coming up on Saturday evening.
The Montreal side therefore is a hard one to predict, but there may be game time for those who’ve returned from international duty without to much action under their belts; Brault-Guillard, Piette, Lovitz, and Browne. Azira’s schedule has been more taxing, so he might be given extra rest time.
York9 - Ingham - Doner, Gasparotto, Thompson, Abi - Do Chiara, Murofushi - Porter, Aparicio (c), Telfer - Gattas.
IMFC - Diop - Brault-Guillard, Cabrera, Camacho, Lovitz - Piette (c), Krolicki, Choiniere - Shome, Jackson-Hamel, Taider.
Match Officials - Information not yet available.
The game is streaming live on OneSoccer, kick-off 1930 hrs.