Heading into the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Final between Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact I honestly had no idea of what to expect. I have discussed their rivalry and the varying results and I easily could have seen either team win by three goals or on the flip side it could have easily been a draw. Now that the first leg is completed… I still don’t know what to expect. Scratch that, I do know one thing. The second leg in Toronto is a must-watch event. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a moment and catch our breath as we discuss the three halves of the first game. Yes, you did read that correctly.
The Unintended Half
— Dan Riccio (@DanRiccio590) November 23, 2016
The setting in Montreal wasn’t perfect, but it was supremely electric. There was constant worry all week about the state of the pitch and rightly so as it was awful. It wasn’t just that it was astroturf, but the archaic, unforgiving (feels like playing on cement) type of astroturf. There was genuine concern from a number of people about how it would affect the game. I bet those people are hoping now that it was the astroturf that overshadowed the game because it isn’t the turf that we were talking about now but the fact that they painted the 18 yard box to small. Which caused the game to start 30 minutes late. Hmm, how do you mis-measure the penalty area when it is called the 18 freakin YARD BOX? It is hard to imagine how it is possible in this day and age to mess something like this so badly. What’s even harder to imagine is how did NOBODY notice this until just before game time? I understand that we all make mistakes, but seriously, this has far greater implications than just a bit of embarrassment for the Montreal Impact. So many more people were tuning into this game more than other in Canadian club history. Many of those people are soccer fans that never appreciated North American soccer, considering it minor leagues compared to Europe and South America. What they saw sadly confirmed their beliefs and many would not have even bothered to wait to see the game. That was a complete and utter fiasco and could have severely damaged the growth of this league and the sport of soccer in Canada.
The Deja Vu Half (or the first 60 minutes)
Whether it was the pre-start delay, the 60,000 screaming Impact fans or the horrible field at Olympic Stadium, whatever the reason, Toronto FC got off to the same terrible start they did last year. Former TFC player Dominic Oduro got behind the defence and opened the scoring at the 10 minute mark. Three minutes later Matteo Mancosu doubled the Impact lead as three TFC defenders looked at each other helplessly. For those that remember last year’s game, we all expected a third to follow shortly. Well, the third was scored by Ambroise Oyongo as he was allowed to literally jog from midfield all the way to the (newly painted) 18-yard box before calmly kicking it in. At this point the only real consolation for TFC fans was that at least that goal didn’t come until the 53rd minute. Surprisingly, despite the 3 bad goals, the defence did remain intact to prevent other chances and at times did close down well on wingers. It wasn’t like the score line was just their fault. TFC’s offence was being held in check by a very strong, very confident defence. To make matters worse, Giovinco wasn’t in proper form as his touch was off on his shots, his passes and especially on those balls we couldn’t tell whether they were shots or passes.
The What Just Happened Half (or the last 30 minutes)
Down by three goals and eerily similar to what happened last year, in came Wil Johnson and Tosaint Ricketts just before the 60th minute to try and change their fate. Jonathan Osorio and Armando Cooper have played very well for the Reds in these playoffs, but tonight was not their night and it was a very good move by Coach Vanney. The midfield started to stabilize and Michael Bradley inched forward as an away goal here was crucial. Losing 3-1 wouldn’t be a great result, but it would mean a 2-0 win at home would clinch a berth in the finals. A difficult task in itself, but certainly doable and far better than having to score three just to tie. As it took the Impact about 10 minutes to score, it took the Reds about 10 minutes since the substitutions to finally beat Impact keeper Evan Bush. TFC had pressure on the net, hitting the post and the ball got back to Giovinco who put a quick short cross and Jozy Altidore scored. The Reds got their much needed away goal. It didn’t stop there however because just as Montreal doubled their goal tally in just a few minutes in the first half, so did the Reds in the second. About 4 minutes later with some sloppy defending, Ricketts made a nice little drop pass for Bradley who buried it in the back of the net.
The Montreal Impact may have won the game 3-2, but I guarantee you it was the TFC fans who walked away happiest. Second leg is set for November 30th at BMO Field in Toronto. Should be another dandy… unless of course they paint the lines wrong.
» Sports » TFC/Impact rivalry overshadowed by paint