MONTREAL — For a while, in the first leg of the latest and most significant edition of the 401 Derby, the Montreal Impact enjoyed a dream scenario. At one point, the home side this past Tuesday night at Olympic Stadium in Montreal boasted a three-goal lead and a clean sheet.
Unfortunately, it proved too good to be true for the Impact. Instead, they settled for a 3-2 win in the opening game of the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Championship series, before a capacity crowd of 61,004..
Instead of traveling to Toronto with a commanding lead in the all-Canadian series, Montreal has the sword of the Reds' two away goals dangling above them. That will become even more dangerous if they fall behind in the return leg at BMO Field on Wed., Nov. 30 (7 pm ET, FS1 in US, TSN in Canada).
Nonetheless, Impact head coach Mauro Biello said his team is used to doing things the hard way.
“We've never had the upper hand,” Biello said on Tuesday. “No one gave us a chance so in the end, for us, nothing changes. We've got to focus on what we need to do to get that result to get us through.”
Montreal has won four straight playoff games after failing to win consecutive games during the regular season.
On Tuesday night, the Impact led 3-0 when Toronto coach Greg Vanney called on substitutes Tossaint Ricketts and Will Johnson in the 57th minute. Not long after that, the Reds got themselves on the board when Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley scored in the 68th and 73rd minutes, respectively.
“The first half, we were there, we put pressure, we did what we wanted to, executed well, and then we dropped,” Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier said. “Playoffs [are] about efficiency and mistakes. And they had a few chances, which we let go, and they pounced."
Biello noted that the Impact have had to battle their way through on the road throughout the playoffs. Montreal won 4-2 against D.C. United in their Knockout Round game at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C.. The Impact then followed up a 1-0 win against the New York Red Bulls at Stade Saputo in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, finishing up with a 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena.
Biello also pointed out that Toronto needs to take a lead at home to regain the upper hand, which makes the Impact's ability to score on the counter-attack a significant threat.
“Well, they've got to score, the same as New York,” Biello said. “When we counter, when we go on the break, we've got to hurt them. And if we hurt them, it puts us in a good situation. We'll re-analyze the game and see how we could make a couple of adjustments and be ready for them.”