Canadian Championship: Montreal Impact search for winning mentality ahead of semifinal vs. Toronto FC

MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact have thrived on the road this year – in Cup competitions, anyway.

True, they have not yet scored in three MLS away games. But they did find the back of the net five times in three CONCACAF Champions League road contests, with four of those goals serving as tiebreakers as Montreal advanced past Pachuca in the quarters and Alajuelense in the semifinals on away goals.

After having topped Toronto FC 1-0 at home in the first leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal series last week, the Impact know TFC must push for a goal in the return meeting at BMO Field on Wednesday (7:30 pm ET, Sportsnet One and TVA Sports in Canada, MLS Live in the US and Mexico). That should leave space for Montreal to try to find an away goal on the counter, something they’ll look to exploit in their quest for a third-straight Voyageurs Cup.

“Away goals are huge,” midfielder Calum Mallace told reporters on Tuesday morning. “We’ve been very successful, especially in the Champions League, with away goals. We have to focus defensively and be solid. We have such great players going forward on the counterattack, and hopefully we’ll be able to catch them tomorrow on a couple.”

The one time when away goals weren’t enough for Montreal in the CCL was in the tournament final, when the Impact came up short after posting a 1-1 result in the first leg away to Club América’s Dario Benedetto and Oribe Peralta, the deadliest attack of the tournament. TFC probably have – on paper – the finest strike force in the ACC, with Designated Players Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco leading the line for the Reds.

Both Altidore and Giovinco got a rest in the first leg. But Montreal are expecting a different Toronto team on Wednesday, especially after witnessing TFC’s 2-1 home loss to Houston on Sunday. The Reds didn’t grab that game by the scruff of its neck, only picking up the pace after they fell behind. Toronto will be down one goal already at kickoff on Wednesday, which could prove tricky for Montreal, who doomed themselves with lapses in concentration in the second leg of the CCL final en route to a 4-2 home loss for a 5-3 aggregate defeat.

Montreal captain Patrice Bernier called for more of a winning mentality from his teammates, some of whom are “not on the same page in terms of this attitude,” he said.

If one wants to win, Bernier insisted, the keys are commitment in training and giving everything you have in games, no matter how much you’re playing.

“You can have the best tactics in the world and everything, but if you don’t show that attitude in every phase, if you’re not focused for 90 minutes – because, yeah, sometimes you don’t have the ball, but it's a matter of focus – that makes a difference,” said Bernier, who played his first full 90 of the season in last Wednesday’s first leg. “That’s why we make mistakes or why another team makes a mistake and we’re not making them pay.”

Montreal head coach Frank Klopas thinks both teams will undoubtedly be ready to put their most recent results to rest – Montreal also lost 2-1 at home this weekend, with the Impact falling to the Portland Timbers. In his team’s case, Klopas feels that a less-is-more approach is the way to go. The Impact, he said, are trying to “overdo things” at times.

“Let the game come to you,” Klopas said. “Everybody’s seen what we’ve done, and the quality of players that we have, in the Champions League. For sure, there’s more of an incentive for [the opposition], now, to double-team, triple-team players. We’ve got to be more simple in certain moments in the game – the decision-making, when to hold the ball, when to play, when to take players on. That has to improve. But the mentality of the guys, everybody wants to do well and, believe me, it wasn’t easy dropping a game at home.”