There will be a derby in the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Championship – just not the one many anticipated.
Toronto FC put the bow on a comprehensive 7-0 aggregate victory over New York City FC with their 5-0 Leg 2 rout in the teams' semifinal matchup, just hours after the Montreal Impact stunned the New York Red Bulls to make this 401 Derby worth a trip to the MLS Cup Final. The two teams split the season series, each winning once before they drew, 2-2, less than a month ago at Stade Saputo.
“It’ll be fun,” said TFC defender Drew Moor. “I imagine it’ll be a great atmosphere for both games. We have a couple of weeks to put together a gameplan, they’re playing extremely well right now. It means a lot to both sets of fans and it means a lot to us as well. I think we’re going to have to start the first game like we have the last couple of games here.”
Forward Sebastian Giovinco scored twice in Toronto’s 2-0 victory on April 23. He recorded a hat trick Sunday, pushing his total to four goals in three games this postseason. Giovinco said his team will need to be at its best physically and mentally for the opening leg against the Impact:
“We have to keep doing the best that we can do as we showed that we have so far.”
Moor said Toronto will have to pressure the Impact from kickoff just as they did against NYCFC on Sunday. They will have to do so on the road, as the Impact will host on November 22 at Olympic Stadium. The two teams played their first MLS match there more than four years ago. But as this most impactful chapter looms, Toronto will approach it as the opportunity to continue advancing a two-year ascendancy – one game at a time.
“I think we’ve had a number of those types of games,” said head coach Greg Vanney. “Last year when we clinched beating New York, I think was one of those days. Winning the first playoff game this year was another one of those games. Advancing through this series for sure is going to be another one of the moments.
“We’re just continuing to develop a culture and a mentality of winning, and it’s what I would say was lacking in previous years.”