MONTREAL – After nine years of waiting, Toronto FC got a rude awakening in their first-ever MLS Cup Playoff appearance.
An imperial Montreal Impact side scored three goals in 20 first-half minutes to end TFC’s dreams just as they were starting. The Impact ran out 3-0 winners against their archrivals on Thursday night at Stade Saputo, in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Goals by club captain Patrice Bernier, Ignacio Piatti and – of course – Didier Drogba booked Montreal’s first-ever trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, where they will face Columbus Crew SC beginning with this Sunday's first leg at Stade Saputo.
TFC right back Jackson, who had the proverbial target on his back for the Montreal attackers, will rue his involvement in the 19th-minute opener. He missed an interception on Montreal's Nigel Reo-Coker, leaving Piatti free to stampede down the left. Piatti spotted Bernier’s run through the middle, slipped the ball through and watched as Bernier sidefooted the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Chris Konopka for a 1-0 lead.
Piatti took care of the second goal by himself – actually, with a little help from the TFC center backs. Ahmed Kantari played a square pass to linemate Josh Williams, who slipped and was pickpocketed by Piatti. With such a gift, the Argentine coolly took a touch and placed a precise finish at the far post to Konopka’s left.
The Impact were 3-0 up five minutes later. TFC left back Justin Morrow cleared a Bernier lob off the line, but Bernier picked the rebound up to the left of the goal. The Impact captain faked a cross with his right foot, came back on his left and finally crossed for an unmarked Drogba, who finished easily with Konopka caught on the other side of goal. And the bell tolled again.
Toronto’s best hopes, as was the case last Sunday in their regular-season finale, relied on league MVP candidate Sebastian Giovinco. The Italian threatened on the counter nine minutes in but was stopped by goalkeeper Evan Bush, who frustrated him again just after halftime: Giovinco’s knuckling free kick looked like it would dip into the goal, but Bush changed direction at the last second to tip it wide.
TFC were ultimately shut out and Montreal won their first postseason match in club history, hoping they're able to make their 2015 run last for a few more weeks.