MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact don't really care what Toronto FC had to say about Stade Olympique on their way out of town.
Montreal coach Mauro Biello responded on Friday to TFC's complaints about the venue after TFC's 3-2 loss there in the first leg of the all-Canadian Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Championship series, particularly Toronto coach Greg Vanney's frustrations with its artificial-turf field. Reds captain Michael Bradley had suggested that gamesmanship might have been behind the improper placement of the penalty area lines, which needed to be repainted, causing a 30-minute delay prior to the game.
"That's their opinion," Biello said after practice on a snow-covered pitch at Centre Nutrilait on Friday. "I mean, gamesmanship? The poor guy that measured wrong, I don't know how that would benefit us or benefit them by having two yards. So in the end I don't know where that comment is associated with, but in the end, we'll let the field talk. You know, that's my message and that's the mentality with this group. You get defined by what you do on the field and everything else, you can't control."
Impact captain Patrice Bernier gave "The Big O" and its capacity crowd of 61,004 a rave review.
"It was electric, it was great," Bernier said. "It was great because with the delay, you never know how the fans are going to react, but they stayed and they had the buzz and they were really into the game. And when we started, from the national anthem, we felt it and we knew that if we could get going and get something that keeps the crowd going, and we did it.
"We scored one, and it pushed us, we scored two, it pushed us, scored three and the second half kept pushing us and I think we felt the energy. And maybe if we had four we probably would have finished off the game, but it was great. We've played four games now with 60 [thousand]-plus and this is the first time we've won, so that's a great sign."
But Bernier wasn't surprised that the visitors were less than pleased with how they were received for the first leg. And he's curious about what awaits the Impact in Toronto, where the second leg will unfold at BMO Field on Wednesday (7 pm ET, FS1, TSN1, RDS).
"At this stage of the season, playoffs, it's a mindset," Bernier said. "You can't talk about technicality or strategy. Of course, there's a chess match being played by coaches and both teams, but you have to be ready for anything. And it's about winning every inch. So no, the reality is we don't know what it's going to be like. We're going outside and we're going to be ready for anything."
While Montreal's decision to move its game from intimate Stade Saputo to the controlled environment of cavernous Olympic Stadium was not a hit with the Reds, the Impact are gearing up to play the second leg outdoors in Toronto.
"We knew from the month of March that if we would go far into the playoffs, that we would be playing at the Olympic Stadium,” said Biello. “It wasn't last week that we made that decision, this was already planned a long time ago. As you could see, there's snow now and the conditions to play would be difficult to have a game of that magnitude. And there's many turf fields in this league and there's no difference from our turf field and say, in Vancouver or Orlando and these other places. For us, I can't control what they're going to say, other than put my players in the best conditions to have success."
Biello is determined not to trot out excuses about whatever conditions will prevail when this most significant edition of the 401 Derby is completed at BMO Field just three days after it hosts the Grey Cup, the Canadian Football League's championship game.
"The field, if it's not in good condition, it works both ways for them," Biello said. "They've got to deal with it also. If there's football players and it rains and they dig up holes, in the end, it's for both teams. My dad always told me that I couldn't complain when I was young about field conditions or weather conditions because he would tell me on the drive home that it's the same for both teams."