Toronto FC did themselves a huge favour in tonight’s Canadian Classique, but not before Bojan Krkic had stunned the home crowd with a superb finish from 25 yards to put Montreal ahead in the 49th minute.
The strike from the former Barcelona man rocked the Reds back on their heels, although they recovered through goals by Delgado (64) and a late 81st minute winner from unlikely marksman, Justin Morrow. It was Morrow’s first of the season.
The Reds now sit 3 points ahead of Montreal with a game less played. New England also winners tonight, are a further point ahead with same number of games as TFC.
Toronto had looked the livelier side throughout this evening’s contest. The decision to omit Pozuelo from the starting line-up to try engineer a quicker build-up looked to be paying off as the home side carried the game to the Impact throughout the first half.
But ironically when the Toronto goals did come, Pozuelo had already replaced Nick deLeon at half-time, and the Spaniard had a direct influence on the equalizer forcing Bush to punch his inviting cross clear on 63 mins. There was an element of luck involved as the ball fell invitingly to Delgado, whose shot was not cleanly struck, but still managed to thread its way between two pairs of Montreal legs and Bush’s despairing, possibly unsighted, dive and into the net.
If Montreal had fallen deeper after taking the lead, then the pressure built even more after Toronto were back on level terms.
Benezet and Auro combined, before Altidore couldn’t get high enough to keep the full-back’s cross down. Then Benezet put one wide after service from Laryea. TFC were getting closer. New Impact coach Wilmer Cabrera knew it and went 4-5-1, introducing Jackson-Hamel as the lone striker up front, for the ineffective Tabla, and placing Urruti and Bojan deeper.
The red tide continued to flow. Sagna, captaining the side for the first time, did well to clear another dangerous Pozuelo ball, Bush produced a fine double save to prevent one from reaching the head of Altidore, then smothered the follow-up from Bradley, and Raitala put himself on the line, painfully, to block Morrow’s attempt from Altidore’s downward header.
Jackson-Hamel’s night was about to end only 15 minutes after entering the fray. The Impact number 11 was stretchered away nursing a damaged knee, but not before that Morrow goal on 81 that sealed the points.
US internationals, Bradley and Altidore were the architects, Bush made good contact with Morrow’s strike, but was unable to prevent the ball from crossing the line.
It was a more gutsy performance from Montreal, Sagna with the captain’s armband looked more vocal and animated than what we’re used seeing, and formed a tenacious central defensive partnership with Raitala. There were still some misunderstandings between the pair, but that could be expected, it’s the first time they’ve occupied these roles in a partnership.
But having edged in front, Montreal never looked comfortable seeking another goal, which could have closed out the contest. Instead they resorted back into their BMO Field shell, and ultimately paid the price. The midfield struggled against a more experienced engine room too, well-marshalled by Bradley, and apart from Bojan’s goal, the visitors didn’t manage another shot on target throughout.
The margin was narrow, the victory obtained late, but the better side won the soccer match.
Montreal Impact now must harvest as close to 15 points as possible from their remaining home games, if they are to remain in serious contention for a play-off spot.
Toronto FC - Westberg - Auro, Gonzalez, Mavinga, Morrow - Benezet (Osorio, 80), Bradley (c), Delgado, DeLeon (Pozuelo, 46) - Altodore, Gallardo (Laryea, 59)
IMFC - Bush - Brault-Guillard, Sagna (c), Raitala, Lovitz - Tabla (Jackson-Hamel, 69) (Corrales, 84), Krolicki (Shome, 90+2), Taider, Lappalainen - Urruti, Bojan
Match Officials -
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Assistant Referees: Frank Anderson, Eric Weisbrod
4th Official: Robert Sibiga
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez