Canadian Championship: Toronto FC confident, but "on guard" entering Montreal for decisive second leg
TORONTO – There’s a positive buzz around Toronto FC training as the team prepares to head out to Montreal for the decisive match of the Amway Canadian Championship on Wednesday (7:30 pm ET, Free Stream on MLSsoccer.com in US, Sportsnet One in Canada).
Tied with their Impact FC rivals 1-1 on aggregate, head coach Ryan Nelsen and his Toronto side will be looking to add to the trophy cabinet with a fifth Voyageurs Cup four days after beating Columbus 3-2 on Saturday and claiming the Trillium Cup.
“It’s not very often that you get an opportunity to win two cups in a week, so that’s kind of exciting for us,” Nelsen told reporters at training Tuesday. “Then we’ve got a big game, San Jose at home, which can solidify ourselves in the league.”
The Impact, the current holders of the Canadian Championship trophy, have struggled to find results of late. In last Wednesday's first leg at BMO Field, Montreal found themselves down 1-0 after a Doneil Henry header, but Justin Mapp beat TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik to give the Impact a precious away goal for the final leg. Montreal went on to knock off the red-hot New England Revolution 2-0 over the weekend.
“We’ll be on guard,” TFC captain Steven Caldwell said. “We’ll have to defend well, defend as a team and keep the ball for long periods to allow the back four to get up the park a bit, a little bit of a respite. We know that we have the firepower to change the game in a second, as we’ve seen on Saturday. If we can be tight, the chances will come and we feel we can score goals.”
One of the influential factors Toronto will need to deal with is Patrice Bernier. The Canadian midfielder didn’t play much of a role in the first leg but was rested over the weekend.
“Patrice is a fantastic player,” Nelsen said, “I think one of the best Canada’s produced. Such a good pro.”
“He dictates the game for Montreal,” Dwayne De Rosario said of his national team colleague. “The rhythm pretty much goes through him. It’s important to be mindful of a player like Patrice and to lock him down.”
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TFC’s confidence was boosted by success in the Trillium Cup, but the club’s players have their eyes on an even bigger prize: the CONCACAF Champions League.
“A cup is a cup, right?” De Rosario said of the trophy, which represents TFC's and the Crew's fledgling rivalry. “The first cup of the year, we’re very happy about that. Obviously this one is a huge one for us, to represent Canada at the CONCACAF club level. It’s one that we want to go, into a tough environment, and win. We’ve got to win.”
Said Caldwell: “We want to play in that competition. It’s obviously very exciting to play in any kind of Champions League, so that would be a real honour, to represent Toronto in that competition. Obviously with that comes the challenges, the extra games but we feel we’ve got enough guys here who can adapt to that.”