TORONTO – Absence makes the heart grow fonder; familiarity breeds contempt.
Wednesday night will be an evening of such contrasting tones when Toronto FC face the Montreal Impact in the first leg of the semifinals of the 2016 Amway Canadian Championship at BMO Field (7:30 pm ET; TSN4 in Canada, MLS LIVE in the US).
And Sebastian Giovinco's availability has not been ruled out, despite him leaving Saturday's match in New York with an adductor injury.
Greg Vanney was coy when updating Giovinco's condition after Tuesday's training, calling it a “Grade I” strain.
“Day-to-day,” Vanney said when asked about Giovinco’s status. “He's making progress. Tomorrow, [we'll] see where he's at. He loves playing; he wants to be out there. He's pushing himself to get back.”
Is Wednesday too soon? “We'll see,” offered Vanney.
With a raft of absences, TFC could use the Italian's ability to impact games. Giovinco has played a role in all but one of Toronto’s goals this season, either scoring or assisting.
Michael Bradley and Will Johnson are away with their respective national teams; Jozy Altidore is out with that hamstring, and Drew Moor's inclusion is in doubt – he and his wife welcomed their first child early Tuesday morning.
The club won four-straight Canadian Championships from 2009 to 2012, but has not since, forced instead to watch Montreal and Vancouver lift the Voyageurs Cup.
“We want to be champions of Canada, get back in the Champions League,” said Ashtone Morgan, a member of both 2011 and 2012 sides.
“I would really like to win a trophy. We haven't won it since I joined, so hopefully this year we can change that,” said Jonathan Osorio. “It's important. Every country around the world has their own cup.”
“Trophies are good for a player, for a team,” added Benoit Cheyrou. “With not a lot of games you can win [one].”
Vanney outlined a plan to come out strong at home in the first leg of the home-and-away series.
“Being at home in the first leg, we want to set the tone,” Vanney said. “It's important that we come out with the right attitude; push to score goals. That's my strategy because we want to win.”
Adding sweetness to that possibility is a dollop of vengeance – Montreal knocked Toronto out of the playoffs last season. Wednesday will be the second meeting of five between the clubs this year across all competitions – Toronto having won 2-0 in a regular season match in Montreal in April.
They have met no less than four times per year since 2012. It's a familiarity that never gets old.
“It's about bragging rights,” explained Osorio. “[It's] a rivalry that goes further than just soccer. Our fans want to win every game. The atmosphere is always really good. There's always one team seeking revenge.”
“You can feel the dislike [between fans],” admitted Cheyrou. “It's very important for them, for pride.”