TORONTO – Doneil Henry and Andrew Wiedeman scored at opposite ends of the second half as Toronto FC drew first blood against the Montreal Impact in their opening semifinal leg of the Amway Canadian Championship on Wednesday evening at BMO Field.
With both teams facing a busy slate of fixtures in the coming weeks, Toronto and Montreal each elected to rest several of their most prominent starters, with Robert Earnshaw, Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta not dressing for the game and Darren O’Dea taking a place on the TFC bench.
The technical ability of those four veteran players was clearly missed during a spirited but sloppily played first half in which the lone genuine scoring chance came on a well placed 18th-minute free kick from TFC midfielder John Bostock that required a diving save from Impact 'keeper Evan Bush, making his first appearance of the season for the Impact.
After struggling to generate scoring chances in the opening 45 minutes, Toronto came to life early in the second half with a run of play that culminated with Montreal unable to completely clear the ball from their box and Henry, a center back, delivering a strike any forward would be proud of, past Bush into the top left corner of the Impact net.
Montreal head coach Marco Schällibaum attempted to kick-start his team’s offense at the hour mark with the substitutes Andrea Pisanu and recently-signed Daniele Paponi coming on in place of midfielders Calum Mallace and Justin Mapp.
However, it was a Toronto substitute who influenced the match and play a key role in clinching the result for the home side, with attacking midfielder Luis Silva threading a beautiful pass to Wiedeman, who made no mistake in putting his shot past Bush in the 81st minute.
Wiedeman did miss a golden chance to all but ice the series just minutes later, though, finding himself with all sorts of time and space at close range, only to opt for power and drive it straight at Bush.
In a cup match in which Toronto and Montreal started five and three Canadian players, respectively, TFC once again showed an uncanny ability to get the job done in the Canadian Championship competition, which they have won four times running.
The two teams will meet again in the series decider on May 1 in Montreal as Toronto will look to seal a spot in the tournament finals, while the Impact must find at least two goals on their home turf.
Before then, though, both teams will be back in MLS action, as Toronto host the New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon, with the Chicago Fire visiting Montreal at the Stade Saputo the same day.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Doneil Henry||Not only was he TFC's best defender on the day, he scored a beauty of a goal to open the scoring|
|2||Patrice Bernier||Impact captain made his presence felt in the midfied, recovering balls, completing his passes – the glue that held the Impact together|
|3||John Bostock||Englishman was unceasingly active throughout the game, giving Montreal defenders fits and helping put together some of TFC's better attacks|