MONTREAL – When Santos Laguna step on the BMO Field playing surface on Wednesday night, the Montreal Impact will actually be cheering Toronto FC – but just this one time, and for pragmatic reasons only.
Impact president Joey Saputo explained on Wednesday how a good showing from TFC in the CONCACAF Champions League opens the door for more chances of continental success for his own club. The Impact have not won the Canadian Championship – the sole route to CCL action for MLS’ Canadian troika – since 2008.
“We will be watching, and we hope TFC do well because it would be good for Canadian soccer,” Saputo (above right) told reporters after a press conference to announce former Impact captain Nevio Pizzolitto's retirement. “As you know, there is only one spot for Canadian clubs in the CCL while there are many for US and Mexico teams as well as smaller countries.
“We’ve been asking for a second spot, but CONCACAF always tells us to wait and see how Canadian clubs do in the tournament. TFC have been doing well, and we hope they keep doing well because we want that second berth.”
Come April 7, however, the Impact and TFC will be throwing jabs, not compliments, as the Ontario club visits Montreal's Olympic Stadium. While Impact vs. TFC is still a rather young rivalry, the bad blood between the two towns is very thick indeed, and their first MLS meeting should be a solid demonstration of that – especially since it falls on the same day the NHL’s Canadiens host the Maple Leafs.
The Impact have sold 18,000 tickets for the TFC game so far, with between 1,000 and 1,500 Reds fans expected to make the trip. Concerns have been raised over the location of the away section, though, as Chicago Fire fans posted pictures on Twitter which showed the view from their seats on March 17 to be obstructed.
TFC fans, this being said, should not be worried.
“Problems with the seating plan led us to give seats with an obstructed view to some Chicago fans,” Impact director of communications Patrick Vallée told MLSsoccer.com. “Ushers addressed the situation five minutes before kick-off, and the away fans were moved.”