The Canadian Classique needs no added juice. Not even if it's at a neutral venue with no fans, over a thousand miles south of the Canadian border.
"I don’t have to motivate the players," Montreal head coach Thierry Henry said on a video conference call with reporters. "They already know what time it is."
TFC and the Impact reignite their rivalry at the MLS is Back Tournament on Thursday (8 pm ET | FS1, TUDN, TVAS), their first meeting of 2020. Toronto had the edge during the 2019 regular season, but Montreal lifted the Canadian Championship at Toronto's expense after penalties, granting the Impact a berth to the Concacaf Champions League.
As if the stakes needed elevating, both clubs are desperate for three points in Group C. TFC crawled to a 2-2 draw with 10-man D.C. United despite being up 2-0 beyond the 80th minute, while the Impact fell to the New England Revolution 1-0 in similarly disappointing fashion.
“We don’t need any added pressure or anything going into this Montreal game ready go," said TFC defender Richie Laryea. "It’s a rivalry game, we know all what’s at stake. We dropped two points at D.C. and this is a big game for us, so we’re ready. And it just so happens to be against our rivals, so that makes it even better.”
Toronto may have one key reinforcement returning. Head coach Greg Vanney hasn't ruled out Jozy Altidore from making an appearance off the bench, as the US international continues to work his way into match fitness. Vanney also added that Omar Gonzalez and Chris Mavinga, who were substituted against D.C. due to cramps, should be good to go.
Meanwhile, Henry noted that his team lacked fight against the Revs – New England won 56 duels, Montreal only 37 – as the Impact mustered just two shots on target. He expects a response against Toronto and, as the old cliché goes, you throw form out the window in a derby match.
“When Toronto plays Montreal, the truth of the previous game doesn’t stand," said TFC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg. "It’s a particular game for both clubs. Thinking you know what to expect is probably the biggest mistake you can make.”
Like other games in Orlando, no fans will be present. The atmospheres at BMO Field and Stade Saputo are key in making this rivalry so special. But, as most other things in 2020 have been temporarily moved remote and online, the disdain will still exist.
“The players sure know we’re representing our fans in this game," said Vanney. "Both teams will go onto the field with the endeavor that they know they’re representing their fans and their city. … I don’t think it’ll take long for either side to get into the intensity of the derby.”