Montreal, Toronto tangle in Canadian Championship semifinal

CF Montreal's Romell Quito, left, challenges Toronto FC's Noble Okello during second half Canadian Championship soccer action in Montreal, Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Graham Hughes/CP)

The semifinals of the Canadian Championship have once again pitted the two biggest soccer clubs in the country against one another in what is affectionately known as the Canadian Classique.

On Wednesday night at BMO Field, Toronto FC will host CF Montreal for the chance to play in the Voyageurs Cup final. The winner will square off against the winners of the Vancouver Whitecaps and York United FC match.

Toronto advanced to the semis by taking down Canadian Premier League side Halifax Wanderers FC by the slimmest of margins, advancing thanks to an 86th-minute own goal. CPL teams have made it a habit to give their Major League Soccer big brothers a difficult run whenever they meet.

“When you first enter the Cup and you play away games (against lower division sides) it just takes on a whole different feeling,” said Toronto head coach Bob Bradley. “You’ve got to be at your best and you’ve got to be sharp. If you’re just a little bit off in certain moments the other team starts to believe, and the game becomes a real fight.”

That is not always the case as Montreal’s route to the semifinal showdown was far less complicated. Matched up with last year’s CPL leaders in Forge FC, coach Wilfried Nancy and his men made quick work of the game, going up 3-0 and cruising to a place in the final four.

However, both teams have lost their most recent MLS games after coming back from the international break. Montreal fell to Austin FC 1-0 and the New York Red Bulls blitzed Toronto 2-0.

Both teams will be looking at this derby as an opportunity to not only beat a bitter rival but get back in the win column.

“One thing about this team is that we have a very short memory after a loss,” said Nancy. “Every time, it’s a learning opportunity so you take what you can from it and then forget it ever happened.”

Montreal may be feeling more confident heading into the 7 p.m. game, sitting eight points above Toronto in the MLS standings. Montreal has also gone unbeaten in their last four head-to-head matchups with a record of 3-1-0 with the last one winning them the 2021 Voyageurs Cup.

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