MONTREAL – Eat. Sleep. Backheel. Repeat.
Two deft finishes from Didier Drogba on Decision Day – one a backheel, the other a tricky flick as well – secured the Montreal Impact’s first-ever home playoff date. With a 2-1 win over Toronto FC (15-15-4, 49 pts), Montreal (15-13-6, 51 pts) finish third in the Eastern Conference and will host – wait for it – archrivals TFC once more in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs on Thursday (7 pm ET; UniMas, TSN1/4/5, RDS1 or RDS2).
It could well have been the other way around. Going into halftime, Toronto were set to host Montreal at BMO Field, courtesy of Jozy Altidore’s well-deserved opener – his 13th goal of the season.
Sebastian Giovinco created the goal 45 minutes in to notch his 16th assist of the season. After winning the ball on the flank, TFC switched it to the left wing, where the Italian was waiting. Giovinco duly lifted a cross past his marking party of three and found Altidore, whose header from close range silenced the home crowd – and triggered pyrotechnics in the away section.
Toronto always looked more likely to score than their hosts in the first half. They created several dangerous chances, notably through crosses. Impact netminder Evan Bush had to pull off a couple of impressive saves, most amazingly frustrating Robbie Findley by throwing a hand up to deny him a certain headed goal after a Giovinco cross.
But whatever Impact boss Mauro Biello said in the locker room, it worked. Montreal took to the second half like men possessed, charging forcefully toward the Toronto goal.
Ignacio Piatti drew gasps from the crowd during the first half for not passing the ball, but all was forgiven 54 minutes in. Piatti's cross from the edge of the box found Drogba, who backheeled it past Chris Konopka (WATCH).
Seconds later, Drogba did it again. This time, it was Marco Donadel, from a strikingly similar position to Piatti on the first, who crossed for Drogba to cheekily flick past Konopka with the outside of his boot (WATCH). Drogba has played 11 games in MLS. He now has 11 goals.
The question now is whether Drogba will be physically able to do this again. The Ivorian went down injured in the 81st minute, apparently clipped by defender Ahmed Kantari, but returned minutes later. Despite an energetic counterattack attempt on his part, the limp may ensure that his fitness remains a point of discussion this week ahead of the team’s Knockout Round clash.
Greg Vanney made attack-minded substitutions and created a nervous finish, but Toronto will indeed be back at Stade Saputo on Thursday. It will be worth a watch.