Samuel Piette - Montreal Impact - Leans over with grimace

MONTREAL — Toronto FC head to Stade Saputo for Wednesday’s first leg of the 2019 Canadian Championship final (7:30 pm ET | with a bit of an edge on the Montreal Impact.

TFC are the three-time defending champions, while the Impact last hoisted the Voyageurs Cup in 2014. This season in MLS play, the Reds have swept the season series between the clubs, with a combined score of 4-1.

Samuel Piette isn't buying it.

“Obviously we know that it’s a cup final, but it’s still in MLS and there’s some weird things that happen,” Piette said. “You saw [on Sunday] LA Galaxy beat Sporting Kansas City7-2 so honestly, anything can happen. I think it comes down to the team that wants it most.”

There is a good reason for the Impact to want a first Voyageurs Cup in five years. The team has experienced a whirlwind of events since early August. A poor stretch of games cost Remi Garde his coaching duties and the Impact haven’t performed much better under Wilmer Cabrera. Since his appointment, the Impact have a 1-3-0 record and have slipped below the playoff line in the Eastern Conference standings.

To add insult to injury, the Impact suffered a 1-0 home loss to bottom-dwellers FC Cincinnati on Saturday. After the match, Cabrera said his team would need “the shortest memory ever” to prepare for Wednesday’s final. However, the Colombian adjusted his framing during Monday morning’s press conference.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think you have to work hard to put motivation in the players,” he said. “They’re motivated despite the situation. It’s a final and they know the great opportunity and they know that, no matter what happened in the past, in a final everything is even.”

Cabrera, who coached the Houston Dynamo to a U.S. Open Cup championship in 2018, understands that his team will be viewed as underdogs leading into the first leg. However, he took issue with the very concept.

“There are no underdogs in a final,” he said. “When you make the final, it’s for something. They have made the final and they know that they have the chance. Not only do they have the chance but it’s against the rival team, so it’s a special final.”

The Voyageurs Cup also holds a special place in Impact history because of the Concacaf Champions League. Canadian Championship winners qualify for the continental tournament and Montreal have enjoyed some of the best moments in club history in the Champions League.

In 2008, before the club was even playing in MLS, the Impact upset TFC, who back then were MLS newcomers, to win the CanChamp title. Montreal went on to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Six years later, the Impact won the Canadian Championship and went on to become the second MLS club to reach the CCL final in the tournament’s modern era.

“If you look at the last run in the Champions League that Montreal had, it was unbelievable,” Piette said. “I remember I was in Europe following every game and that’s something you want to be part of. This final is not only a final. There’s something after and you want to be a part of it for sure.”