Montreal credit Garde's tactical adjustments for timely win over Toronto FC

MONTREAL – With his team in great need of a victory as the reigning league champions hit town for his club’s home opener, Remi Garde made adjustments to the Montreal Impact's lineup to help the side knock off archrivals Toronto FC at Stade Olympique.

The new Impact head coach's initiation to the cross-provincial showdown, a 1-0 win over the reigning Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup champs on Saturday, delivered a crucial result after Montreal lost their first two games, both on the road, in Vancouver and Columbus.

Ignacio Piatti was paired up front with Chilean newcomer Jeisson Vargas, and Rod Fanni made his MLS debut at center back with the Impact playing a 5-3-2 formation.

“We didn’t concede too many opportunities,” Garde said postgame. “They kept the ball, then we had to drop deeper than we thought. But we coped very well. We were well-organized, we were patient and we created one or two situations in their back, because we knew that when they defend high they are not especially comfortable when you put the ball behind their back line, then we tried to do that in the first half.”

Montreal fell behind in the first half of each of their first two games. With the visiting Reds coming off the high of advancing to the Concacaf Champions League semifinals earlier this week, a strong start was paramount for the home side.

Set up by Piatti, Vargas scored his first MLS goal 41 minutes in on a shot that struck Toronto defender Nick Hagglund and changed direction on goalkeeper Alex Bono.

“We knew they played on Tuesday, they were a bit tired,” Impact midfielder Samuel Piette said. “If we let them control the game, they would have come out strong in the second half feeling that they have the game in hand. So we needed to already go on the front foot in the first half and try to control the game in the second half as well.”

Impact right back Michael Petrasso, who cleared a Jozy Altidore shot off the line in the 84th minute to save the game for Montreal, credited Garde’s preparation.

“He obviously watched clips on Toronto and he had seen a way that we could keep them from creating opportunities and keeping their key players in places where they were not dangerous,” Petrasso said. “And I think that helped a lot going into that game. As you can see, in the first half there were not that many chances. In the second half we were still creating opportunities with Nacho and Vargas up front, and they were spectacular today, so that helped a lot.”

Piette said Garde and his coaching staff have focused on the details.

“We really worked hard on the physical side because last year we dropped a lot of points,” Piette said. “So I feel it’s really detailed. They have a very good plan on the long term and it’s not only, ‘OK, we have to win this game. We adapt to this team and we go win this game,’ because they do that. You know, we try to impose our system, controlling the game. But no, we’ve been working really hard with these guys and the victory goes to them today.”