• Toronto FC 3 (Giovinco 41′, 90’+3’, Altidore 52’), Montreal Impact 1 (Piatti 90’+2’)
• Giovinco scores his 14th and 15th goals of the season
• TFC now unbeaten in 9 straight, with 6 wins
MONTREAL – Toronto FC’s march towards greatness continues unabated.
The Reds waltzed into Stade Saputo and earned a hard-fought 3-1 win over their fiercest rivals, the Montreal Impact, before 20,801 fans on Sunday afternoon, thanks in large part to a pair of goals from Sebastian Giovinco. Jozy Altidore also scored for TFC, who not only extended its unbeaten streak to nine MLS matches (with six wins), but also ended the Impact’s four-game winning streak.
Table-topping Toronto improved to a club-record 56 points on the campaign, opening up a nine-point gap on second-place New York City FC. In doing so, the Reds inched that much closer to the MLS record for most points in a single season (68) set by the 1998 L.A. Galaxy.
With seven games remaining, Toronto looks a sure bet to win the Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the team that finishes the regular season in first place, and to erase the Galaxy’s long-standing mark. The victory also allowed the Reds to set club records for road wins (six) and road points (23) in a season, while also denting the playoff hopes of Montreal, who after climbing into sixth place in the Eastern Conference, dipped below the playoff line.
What’s especially impressive about this Toronto side is its composure. It was a pretty subdued scene in the locker-room after Sunday’s contest. No high fives. No hooting and hollering, but rather quiet reflection on the previous 90 minutes. The players aren’t getting ahead of themselves, and they aren’t believing the growing hype that surrounds them.
“We feel like there’s still lots of room for improvement. There’s still lots of points left on the table. We haven’t done anything yet. We have to keep going. We have to keep going, we have to keep working with humility,” captain Michael Bradley offered.
Coach Greg Vanney was similarly composed, downplaying the club-record 56 points, and said he was more proud of the selfless work from his players off the field that nobody sees.
“In order to achieve anything, you have to have that kind of a culture in your locker-room, and that for me is the proudest thing,” Vanney stated.
The latest instalment of the “Canadian Clasico” – Yes, I’m not a fan of the “401 Derby” moniker given to this intense rivalry, and have decided to rename it. Got a problem with that? – provided plenty of spectacle and theatre, including Giovinco’s wonderful free kick goal. After Montreal fans unfurled an emoji tifo prior to kickoff accusing him of being a crybaby, the Italian celebrated his first goal by wiping imaginary tears from his eyes in front of the fervent ultras in the west stands.
It was clearly a retaliatory swipe against the Montreal fans, although it was the last thing Giovinco wanted to admit to when asked about it by reporters.
“I don’t think about these things, these stupid things. I think [about] only to play, to win, to score – this is my job,” Giovinco deadpanned.
Vanney made one change from the midweek win over the Philadelphia Union, inserting defender Eriq Zavaleta back into the starting 11 at the expense of Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio. Vanney also reverted to his preferred 3-5-2 formation, after using a 4-4-2 setup against Philadelphia. His counterpart Mauro Biello also fielded a full-strength side featuring midfielders Ignacio Piatti and Blerim Dzemaili, and forward Matteo Mancosu.
The opening half was an end-to-end affair, with Montreal looking more dangerous and carving out the better chances. Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono was called upon early to make two saves, including a fabulous stop off Dzemaili’s free kick from the edge of the box – he saw it very late as the Swiss star’s drive made its way through a forest of legs.
TFC wrestled control of the game as the half went on, with Giovinco scoring on a fabulous free kick from 20 yards out that left Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush glued to his goal-line.
Emotions ran high soon after following a collision between Dzemaili and Bradley. The two were quickly separated before tensions boiled over.
The Reds doubled their advantage early in the second half. Marky Delgado scampered down the left flank and delivered a cross into the middle of the box where Altidore had snuck in behind Montreal’s defence before slotting it home. Altidore had so much open space to operate within that it was like the entire play unfolded in slow motion.
Bono took a nasty knee to the head from an onrushing Dominic Oduro late in the game, but shook it off and stayed in the game. Afterwards, Bono told Sportsnet that he felt fine, with no lasting ill-effects from the collision.
Piatti scored near the beginning of injury to draw the Impact within a goal. But Toronto immediately marched down field and regained their two-goal lead less than a minute later as Giovinco volleyed home a cross from Steven Beitashour. The goal was Giovinco’s team-leading 15th of the campaign.
NOTES: Toronto leads the all-time MLS regular season series against Montreal, with seven wins and four draws in 15 meetings. These teams will meet again on Sept. 20 and Oct. 15, with both games at BMO Field… The Impact return to action when they host the Chicago Fire on Sept. 2. TFC has a bye next week…