Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact - Matchup DL image
Rudy Calderon/MLSsoccer.com

Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact: Which Canadian team has the edge?

Ahead of Leg Two of the Eastern Conference Championship between Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact, MLSsoccer.com breaks down the two finalists position-by-position. The two teams will face off in the second leg at BMO Field on Wednesday (FS1 in US; TSN1, TSN3, TSN4, TSN5 and RDS in Canada).

Toronto FC   Montreal Impact
GOALKEEPERS
Clint Irwin made the move to Toronto prior to the season, helping to shore up a position that had been in flux for a couple of seasons. The 27-year-old started off the season well, helping Toronto concede just 16 goals in their first 14 games, but went down with a quad injury on June 25 that saw him miss three months. Since then, he has looked somewhat shaky. Advantage to:
Evan Bush proved his worth during the Impact’s run to the CONCACAF Champions League final, as he was named the goalkeeper of the tournament for his performances. He makes few incredible saves but does make all the way ones you need him to.
DEFENDERS
Toronto has proven to be one of the strongest defenses in MLS, conceding by far the fewest goals of any Eastern Conference team. The backline is led by veteran center back Drew Moor, who had a strong case for Defender of the Year. Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow have recently moved further up the field but they have been two of the best fullbacks in MLS over the past five years. Advantage to:
Laurent Ciman was named Defender of the Year in 2015 but this year has struggled a bit in bringing together a backline that hasn't closed down gaps well. Victor Cabrera is still developing and sometimes struggles to read the game, while Hassoun Camara would be better suited playing center back. Ambroise Oyongo provides a ton of attacking verve from the left back position, and showed it when he scored a goal in the first leg.
MIDFIELDERS
Toronto’s midfield three of Michael Bradley, Armando Cooper and Jonathan Osorio have shown the ability to control the middle in TFC’s 3-5-2 formation. They have helped solidify Toronto’s defense while providing just enough going forward. Advantage to:
The three aging center midfielders (Hernan Bernardello, Patrice Bernier, Marco Donadel) have bunkered during the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, helping to protect an inconsistent backline. The star here is Ignacio Piatti, who has been the best player in the playoffs so far. His playmaking and goalscoring has allowed the Impact to rely on him almost singularly to provide an offensive punch. Dominic Oduro was a force in Leg One, collecting a goal and an assist.
FORWARDS
Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco is the top forward pairing in MLS. Altidore has been red hot for TFC over the past three months, scoring 12 goals in his last 15 games, while Giovinco should have been collecting his second straight Landon Donovan MLS MVP award on December 6. Advantage to:
Matteo Mancosu has been hot in the playoffs, scoring three goals in three games, and has shown the ability to get behind opposing defenses despite not possessing world-class speed. The fact that the Impact have won 60 percent of games in which he has started (30 percent when he hasn’t) is surely encouraging.
MANAGER
Greg Vanney experimented much of the season with his formations, while having the basic principles of a defensive shape, selective pressing and relying on Giovinco. Those experimentations have benefitted his team as they have found a formation that works for them in the 3-5-2, while having the ability to shift to others based on game states. Advantage to:
EVEN
Mauro Biello showed more guts than almost any MLS coach ever by benching Didier Drogba. That move has helped bring together a locker room and he even managed to get the legendary striker to accept his reduced role. This combined with his decision to change his tactics to a more counterattacking style is one of the main reasons Montreal is in this position.
BENCH
Tosaint Ricketts has scored two goals in his last five games, while players like Benoit Cheyrou and Will Johnson provide a veteran presence in the midfield that could help to lock up some wins. The insertions of Ricketts and Johnson were critical in TFC's Leg One comeback. Advantage to:
Didier Drogba. The star forward seems to have accepted his role coming off the bench and could provide a goal late in the game if Montreal needs one. Johan Venegas has also shown some life in recent outings and just finished tearing up the US national team.
OVERALL
The Toronto FC brass built their team around their three Designated Players. Finally, that vision seems to be coming into focus. With Giovinco and Altidore providing the offense, Bradley controlling the midfield and a strong, organized defense, Vanney has his team hitting on all cylinders at exactly the right moment. Advantage to:
Montreal appear to have resorted to the identity that saw them almost lift the CCL trophy in Olympic Stadium: bunker and counter. The fact that we know that this strategy has been proven to work for them in a tournament format should strike fear into the hearts of TFC fans. They will look to hold onto their lead on Wednesday.

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