MONTREAL – Ignacio Piatti and the Montreal Impact need little incentive to get motivated for a game against Toronto FC, and they’ve got plenty heading into the latest edition of the Canadian Classique derby, as part of Heineken Rivalry Week, on Saturday (8 pm ET | TVAS, TSN4/5 - Full TV & Streaming Info).
“We always want to win against Toronto, that’s true,” Piatti said before practice at Centre Nutrilait on Thursday. “It’s a rivalry that we have a clasico match, so we have to win.”
Montreal (33 points, 10-13-3) are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, the last berth for a playoff spot, as they prepare to face their biggest rivals at BMO Field.
“We’re going there to take the points to get to the playoffs, the goal that we set at the beginning of the season,” Piatti said. “So we have to go to Toronto to win. I know that Toronto is below us, so they’re going to want to win to put pressure on everyone that is front of Toronto to go to the playoffs, but we know that if we win there, for us it’s really good, and for them it’s worse.”
TFC (24 points, 6-12-6), the 2017 Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup champions, are in ninth place, nine points behind the Impact with two games in hand.
“I think they’ve taken pride in the past in kind of sticking the nail in our coffin,” Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush said. “And I think it was 2014, the season that we had a really poor run, where we went there and I don’t know if it was the last day of the season or the second-to-last day of the season, but we got a result there that knocked them out of the playoffs and we took a lot of pride in that.
“So it’s still early. Whatever result happens isn’t going to be a death sentence for either side. But it’s certainly, especially from their standpoint, I think they’re nine points behind us right now, so if we can get a result there, it certainly puts a little bit more pressure on them to get full points moving forward.”
“He’s a very good player,” Piatti said. “He’s big and strong so it’s good for us that he won’t be in the starting XI, but they also have a lot of solutions up front.”
While Bush acknowledged that Toronto will miss out on Altidore’s dynamic combination with Sebastian Giovinco, he was also wary about overstating the impact of his absence.
“Yeah, it certainly seems that way but at the same time they have a lot of quality players on the team,” Bush said. “And in many ways I think that they would say that they underperformed this year and whether that’s with or without Jozy on the field, that’s for them to speak about. But Jozy’s always been a thorn in our side. We’re certainly not upset that he can’t play, but at the same time we need to be aware of the guys that are on the field because they still pose a lot of different threats and have a lot of qualities.”