Thierry Henry - Montreal Impact - September 9, 2020

Jozy Altidore picked a great time to score his first goal of the MLS season as far as Toronto FC and head coach Greg Vanney are concerned.

His 89th-minute strike to defeat the Montreal Impact dealt his archrivals another painful loss and helped Toronto FC move closer to a berth in the Canadian Championship final.

The series of matches among MLS's Canadian teams to start the regular season is also serving as qualifying for the Canadian Championship final and unless Montreal defeat Vancouver Whitecaps in each of their two matches over the coming week and score several goals in the process, Toronto will secure that berth.

"I think just the mentality that he has going into big games, he's very focused on getting the goal," Vanney said about Altidore postgame. "He wants to make a difference and these big games, more times than not, he's been able to put one on the board or two on the board, something that can make the difference.

"And tonight, even similar to the [MLS Cup] final in 2017, it didn't happen right. It took a lot of work, it took a lot of runs, it took some missed chances by all of us as a group and finally one at the end came to him and he was able to bury it. I know his legs were heavy. Even on the last one that he finished, as he was swinging and hitting it, you could he was still a little bit tired but trying to find a spot to put the ball."

GOAL: Jozy's late winner


Montreal midfielder Samuel Piette acknowledged how Altidore’s strike acted as a gut punch to their Canadian cup aspirations.

“Now with the loss and to give three points to Toronto, we made our job a lot more difficult than it should’ve been if we would’ve tied,” Piette said. “It’s devastating to lose like that because I think we gave the game away."

Toronto were in fact gifted that final goal-scoring chance after Montreal center back Rudy Camacho sent a misdirected pass into midfield that was easily picked off by Toronto and turned into a breakaway, "a mistake we should not make at that time of the game," Montreal head coach Thierry Henry said postgame.

Before Altidore's winner the match looked destined to finish 1-1 after Montreal equalized in the 53rd minute via a Victor Wanyama header (his first MLS goal) that cancelled out Toronto's opener from Pablo Piatti in the 32nd minute. Preserve that result, and Montreal would’ve instead faced a three-point gap with two matches to make up the difference.

Toronto or Montreal will advance to face the winner of the Canadian Premier League's Island Games – the cup format's been altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic – all with the Voyageurs Cup and a 2021 Concacaf Champions League spot on the line. Montreal are the defending champions, while Toronto won it three years straight from 2016-'18.

“It’s always possible. No team is impossible to beat, at home or away,” Piette said in French. “Obviously, playing away is always tougher, especially on a synthetic turf we are not used to. It will be complicated but not impossible. I’m confident. Even if the loss tonight, and the way it happened in the end, is painful. But we must bounce back quickly: We have a game to play Sunday.”

Montreal first face Vancouver this coming Sunday at BC Place (9:30 pm ET | TSN1, TVA Sports, MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US), and anything but a win would give the Canadian Championship final spot to Toronto. A Montreal win would make for a dramatic rubber match next Wednesday (9:30 pm ET | TSN1, TVA Sports, MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US), but Vancouver enter the matches with confidence after beating Toronto 3-2 last weekend.

Watching from afar, Toronto defender Richie Laryea acknowledged having to watch and wait will make for some nerves.

“It’s going to be a little bit anxious, knowing that we have to wait a week or whatever it may be to find out the results,” Laryea said. “But like you said, we’d obviously like to get going and keep the ball rolling. But for now, we have to wait and see what happens these next two games."