MONTREAL – Stade Saputo didn’t exactly witness a thriller for its season opener. But it was the desired result.
Jack McInerney scored the only goal of the game in the 69th minute on Wednesday night as the Montreal Impact defeated Toronto FC in the first leg of their Canadian Championship semifinal series.
Montreal will take a 1-0 advantage to revamped BMO Field next Wednesday, May 13, for the second leg. The series winner will face the Vancouver Whitecaps or the NASL’s FC Edmonton in August's final; the first leg of their series, due to be played on Wednesday night as well, was postponed due to snowfall in Alberta.
McInerney had just had a trickling attempt cleared off the line when he broke the deadlock. Nigel Reo-Coker, again used at right back after appearing in that position for last week's CONCACAF Champions League final, curled in a cross that bounced before goalkeeper Chris Konopka and skipped to McInerney, who made a run at the far post to half-volley the ball into the top of the net.
Neither team had shown many signs of a breakthrough – in the first half, at least. Both teams’ patient approach meant that the game looked like a contest of who would play an exceptional pass first. Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley was nearly the winner in the sixth minute, when he executed a gorgeous defense-splitting long pass to Daniel Lovitz, but the ensuing cross was deflected behind for a corner kick.
The Impact came to life just before halftime, when head coach Frank Klopas switched to a 4-4-2 formation. Captain Patrice Bernier almost immediately provided a fine through ball of his own. Dominic Oduro made the run between Warren Creavalle and Nick Hagglund, but his shot at the far post was turned safely behind. Montreal had two other cracks at goal before the break.
Montreal had two more good looks in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but it was Bradley who forced the best save of the night from the opposing goalkeeper. A wild Laurent Ciman clearance attempt gave the US international a free kick from 25 yards which he curled at the bottom left corner, but Montreal's Eric Kronberg managed to throw himself down and tip the ball wide.
Montreal play a second straight home game this Saturday, May 9, when they host the Portland Timbers at Stade Saputo in league play. Toronto will be opening the ‘new’ BMO Field on Sunday, May 10, against the Houston Dynamo, also in MLS action.