TORONTO – The latest installment of the Canadian Classique unfolded Saturday night as part of Heineken Rivalry Week, and it was heavy with implications.
Although the Montreal Impact took the lead at the start of the second half when Bojan Krkic scored his first goal in MLS, it was Toronto FC who emerged victorious, first equalizing through Marky Delgado and then finding the game-winner from Justin Morrow in the 81st minute.
“It’s a huge win emotionally, in terms of the standings. You can’t understate how important a win it was,” said TFC captain Michael Bradley of the 2-1 result. “We knew coming into this game against Montreal, with all the energy and emotion that comes with games against them, that everything would be cranked up a few notches.”
Not only did the win see TFC complete a regular-season sweep over their rivals in league play, but it also saw Toronto leap over Montreal into the seventh and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Montreal are also 1-7-1 across their last nine games, while Toronto recorded their first win in nearly a month.
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“We didn’t come over here to lose,” said a disappointed Wilmer Cabrera, Montreal’s new coach having taken over the reins from Remi Garde midweek. “We had a plan and the plan was working, but we have to play the whole 90 minutes.”
Bojan pointed to “small details” as the difference on the night: “Last week, we were talking about set pieces. This is football. We are giving everything, we are playing good games, but we need to be strong until the end, play 90 minutes, giving everything. [Tonight] we are tired because we gave everything, but in football the most important [thing] is to score one more goal than the other team.”
After a relative lull in the fireworks between the two rivals as of late, the boiling of some fresh blood was evident. Bojan and Bradley, former teammates at AS Roma, seemed to exchange some sharp words after an on-pitch clash.
“He knows,” clarified Krkic. “He knows why I react like this. But it’s OK, it's football. I don’t take anything personal. I want to win, he wants to win, that’s it."
Morrow, on the other hand, found his game-winner particularly sweet: “It feels good. Feels better when it’s against Montreal.”
And that the goal came when Montreal forward Anthony Jackson-Hamel was down injured – he was stretchered off holding his knee – will no doubt stir some debate.
“It is sad what happened with Anthony, because I know he wanted to play,” lamented Cabrera. “In that moment came the second goal. But that’s the game. The game is not fair, the game is cruel sometimes.”
Toronto will be looking to carry this result into upcoming matches.
“I felt – and hope – that tonight was one of those domino games,” said TFC coach Greg Vanney. “Where you get the group together, get some energy, you build from in and you see yourself now in the playoffs by getting the result. Tip that momentum domino over and we start to really go forward.”
The foes will continue to jostle for postseason consideration, but they also meet twice more in September, with the two-legged Canadian Championship final ahead. Toronto has raised the last three Voyageur Cups, which grants a spot in the Concacaf Champions League.
“Every game is different. We showed that we are a strong team, that we play good football – we can play better,” said Bojan. “For sure, it’s going to be good games in the final. We’re going to fight to win, give everything like we did today."