Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact 04-24-2013 - Preview

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Toronto FC
2 - 0
Final
Montreal Impact
Canadian Championship
April 24, 2013
7:30pm EDT
BMO Field
SportsnetTVA Sports

Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact: Canadian Championship Match Preview

TORONTO FC vs. MONTREAL IMPACT
BMO FIELD, Toronto, ON
April 24, 2013 (Amway Canadian Championship Semifinal, Leg 1)
7:30 pm ET (Sportsnet, TVA Sports)

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Toronto FC will open its defense of the Amway Canadian Championship against seven-time Voyageurs Cup winners Montreal Impact at BMO Field on Wednesday night, going up against perhaps the strongest field the tournament has seen to date.

Toronto have won the past four editions of the tournament and will be looking to secure not only a fifth consecutive title, but another shot at representing Canada in the CONCACAF Champions League, with a berth in the 2013-2014 group stage awarded to the winner of the tournament.

The game at BMO Field will be the first of a two-game, home-and-home series, with the team that scores the most goals over the course of the series advancing to the finals, where it will face the winner of the Vancouver Whitecaps-FC Edmonton series. Should the two teams be tied on aggregate goals, the team with the most away goals will advance, followed by a 30-minute extra time period and then a penalty shootout, should no winner emerge.

READ: All you need to know about 2013 Amway Canadian Championship

Head-to-head (courtesy of impactmontreal.com)

The Impact and Toronto FC have already played in regular season action in 2013. The Impact won the first matchup of the year 2-1 at Olympic Stadium back on March 16. Designated Player Marco Di Vaio and midfielder Patrice Bernier scored in the win.

In Canadian Championship play, the Impact have never beaten TFC, losing six games and tying two, including a 0-0 draw in Montreal and a 2-0 loss in Toronto in last year’s edition of the tournament.

Toronto FC team news (Courtesy of TorontoFC.ca)

Heading into the match, head coach Ryan Nelsen has said that Stefan Frei will start in goal ahead of current number one keeper Joe Bendik. Frei spent the 2012 season on the sidelines with a broken ankle. Upon his return in 2013, he suffered a broken nose in the first match of preseason, which opened the door for Bendik to shine.

“Stef will lead the team out,” Nelsen confirmed. “It’s really important for Stefan to play, he really deserved it.”

Frei – the longest serving TFC player – appeared in nine matches for Toronto in the first three Canadian title runs, before being sidelined in 2012. “I want to make sure that I can perform well and help the team,” Frei told the media. “The Canadian cup is very important to us and we want to defend our title.”

READ: Canadian Championship: Nelsen demands 90 "ruthless" minutes from his team

“With the Champions League spot up for grabs, any player who represents Toronto we’re looking to win,” head coach Ryan Nelsen said at the club’s Kia Training Ground on Tuesday following the training session.

Further to Frei, Nelsen has to consider that this is the second match in a stretch that will see Toronto play six times in 18 days over four cities, including trips to the Rocky Mountains and northern California. Asked about squad rotation, the coach said “we’ve got a heavy fixture list coming up … It doesn’t matter who goes out there, it’s about winning.”

On the injury front fullbacks Richard Eckersley and Darel Russell are “close” to returning from their hamstring setbacks and another defender, Logan Emory (ankle) is “day to day,” according to Nelsen.

Montreal Impact team news (Courtesy of impactmontreal.com)

The Impact are coming off of a 10-day break, having played to a 1-1 draw in its last matchup on Saturday, April 13, at Stade Saputo against the Columbus Crew. Di Vaio scored his third goal in four games to help the Impact earn a point.

This game will mark the first of a six-game stretch to be played in just 18 days for the team.

READ: Canadian Championship: Impact hungry for "pure emotion" of cup win

The Impact currently has the best road record in MLS with two wins and one loss in three regular season matches.

Matteo Ferrari has not traveled to Toronto due to an injury to his left calf, while newcomer Daniele Paponi received his International transfer certificate and will be available for the game. Goalkeeper Evan Bush will start his first game in 2013.