After two straight losses have stretched Toronto FC’s winless streak to four games to round out the month of July, they’ll be looking for a fresh start with the flip of the calendar.
But getting back in the win column won’t be the only motivating factor when TFC return to action on Saturday. They’ll also be facing Canadian rivals Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo (5 pm ET; TSN/RDS in Canada, MLS Live) in a rematch of the Amway Canadian Championship finals, which went to the Impact on a 2-1 aggregate scoreline in the two-leg series.
“I’m still very bitter about them winning the Canada Cup, so I want to go in there and leave a statement,” TFC defender Doneil Henry said. “We understand we’re not in the big tournament, but we still want to impose ourselves as being the top team in Canada.”
The two sides has produced plenty of dramatic moments in the 401 Derby, going as far back as 2009 when Toronto FC stunned Montreal by a score of 6-1 to win the Canadian Championship. In recent years, Montreal have had Toronto’s number, trumping the Reds to win the last two Voyageurs Cups, ending TFC’s four-year reign as tournament champions.
In league play, that rivalry stays just as heated.
“The passion is there for sure,” Henry said.
The full three points have been hard to come by lately for Toronto, with TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen identifying his squad’s tendency to concede “soft” goals in their two-game losing streak.
“Full seasons are roller coasters, especially when you’re putting together a new team,” Nelsen said. “You’re always going to have your ups and downs; it’s just how quickly you can get out of those downs and how much you can ride the highs. We want to correct things as soon as possible and what better chance than Saturday.”
Their backline will be boosted with the return of Henry, who was suspended in Toronto’s 3-0 loss Wednesday to D.C. United.
“I was really disappointed knowing that that was my fifth yellow card, and I couldn’t help my team,” Henry said.
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The game will mark the third in eight days for Toronto and the middle of a four-game road swing. But Montreal will also have one eye on the CONCACAF Champions League group stage match against El Salvadoran side CD FAS on Wednesday and the Impact have struggled mightily during a four-game losing streak and currently sit last in the Eastern Conference standings with 14 points.
So, does Montreal’s MLS form make this match easier for Toronto FC?
“With their signings and whatnot, no,” Henry answered. “MLS is a tricky and crazy league. You can start off at the bottom and you win three, four straight and you’re back into the mix. We had a lot of games in hand and I don’t think we used them well but we know we have a good team so if we can start racking up some wins, we’ll definitely see ourselves in a good playoff spot.”