Armchair Analyst: When Toronto FC host Montreal Impact, "opening the field" is the key

Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact get MLS Rivalry Week started on Wednesday night (8 pm ET; TSN | RDS | MLS LIVE), when the Impact visit the Reds. And everybody should be ready to run.

Montreal are a pure counterattacking team, a trait that served them well in their run to the CONCACAF Champions League final. When they can absorb pressure and go in the other direction, they are deadly, and it all stems from the speed they have on the flanks and up the middle:

That was Andres Romero - the best attacker in the league that you're not paying any attention to - teeing up Ignacio Piatti, who is the featured attraction at Stade Saputo. Putting those two into the same attack with Dom Oduro and Jack McInerney means the Impact always always always want to get out and run. You could argue that they're more dangerous when starting their build-up 90 yards from goal than when they do so from 30 yards out.

Add in their newfound prowess on set pieces and suddenly this is a team with more than one way to beat you. Laurent Ciman has been an essential part of that, as his ability to read and distribute from the back means he starts more counters than any other central defender in the league, and his service on set pieces has been essential (even if he has a Victor Bernardez-esque penchant for putting attempts on goal into low-earth orbit).

The Red side of this rivalry also wants to spread the field and run, thanks largely to Michael Bradley's ability to spray long diagonals with either foot. There aren't a lot of guys in MLS who can make this pass with their left peg:

They've been the polar opposite of Montreal on set pieces, however: Mediocre at serving the ball into the box, but absolutely petrifying when going direct, thanks to Sebastian Giovinco.

Where TFC have shown real hints of "next level" stuff has come from their ability to create from tight possession, especially when the opposing right fullback gets pulled out and Giovinco gets to go in isolation in that left-central channel. This is one of my favorite goals of the year by any team, and the fact that it was scored by an overlapping right back speaks to just how fluid the Reds are when they put the pedal all the way down:

This is an "uh-oh" for Montreal, since right back has been a problem spot for them all season. Look for TFC to try to punish the visitors at that spot.

But if they get over-aggressive and sloppy in doing so, look for the Impact to push it back in the other direction very, very fast.

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