Giovinco nets brace, Toronto FC tops rival Impact in Canadian Classique


Former Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco, centre. (Frank Gunn/CP)

Montreal Impact 1 (Silva 30’), Toronto FC 3 (Giovinco 7’, 22’; Osorio 29’)
• TFC now 6 points out of playoff spot with 9 games left
• Impact hold on to 6th and final playoff berth in East

TORONTO — Technically speaking, this wasn’t a ‘must-win’ for Toronto FC.

Had TFC lost Saturday’s home game against the Montreal Impact, they wouldn’t have been officially eliminated from playoff contention. But make no mistake, a defeat at the hands of their bitter rivals would have marked the end of any realistic hope the Reds had of qualifying for the MLS post-season.

Instead, Toronto bolstered its fading chances at a playoff berth with a 3-1 win over Montreal in the latest edition of the Canadian Classique before 27, 294 fans at BMO Field.

Sebastian Giovinco bagged a brace and Canadian Jonathan Osorio also scored for Toronto, who improved to 7-12-6 on the season. With the win, TFC closed the gap on Montreal (10-14-3), which holds down the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, to six points.

TFC has two games in hand on the Impact, and one of their remaining nine matches in the regular season includes a trip to Montreal on the second-last week of the MLS campaign.

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“This keeps us in the [playoff] race. … All wins [are good] but three points against a team we’re trying to track down are really important. Obviously, it’s a rival so that adds a little bit to it, but right now it’s just about the points,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney admitted.

Whether the reigning MLS Cup champions will still be in the playoff mix by the time that Oct. 21 match rolls around remains to be seen. For the time being, though, TFC are still alive and have hope.

Toronto captain Michael Bradley called it a “huge three points” because the team is “fighting and scraping and clawing for everything right now.”

“We’re not dead, that’s for damn sure,” Bradley asserted.

“Along the way there’s been a few people in some different places that have been ready to count us out. We’ve been able to just keep ourselves going and find ways [to stay alive]. We’re going go to have to do that for nine more games.”

Vanney said that all of the Reds’ remaining five home contests are essentially must-wins.

“We need to win six more games – there are five home games and four road games. So, home wins are vital,” Vanney admitted.

Giovinco was subbed off in the 73rd minute and appeared to be favouring his leg when walking towards the bench as he exited. After the match, the Italian complained about the condition of the pitch and abruptly ended the media scrum in front of his locker after being asked by one reporter about his health.

“We continue to put sand on the grass. The Argos play [on the field], TFC 2 [the club’s farm team] play [on it], everybody plays on this field, and then every game we lose a player. This is not possible,” Giovinco said before walking off in a huff.

Toronto was missing starters Jozy Altidore (suspended), and defender Chris Mavinga and fullback Auro Jr. (both hamstring). Montreal was without forward Matteo Mancosu (leg injury).

Spanish midfielder Victor Vazquez shook off a nagging knee injury and started for Toronto. With Altidore unavailable, Argentine newcomer Lucas Janson started up front alongside Giovinco for TFC. It was only Janson’s second appearance in MLS — he started and scored in last week’s 1-1 draw vs. the San Jose Earthquakes. Veteran defender Drew Moor, who has missed most of the season through injury, started his first match since April 14.

Vanney was impressed with what he saw from the new Giovinco-Janson partnership.

“They’re very mobile together. They’re always busy, they’re always keeping the back line honest, they were threatening the gaps and channels to get in behind. … The two of them were so active on the day that it became a lot of work for [Montreal’s defence],” Vanney offered.

He later added: “For two guys who haven’t played a whole lot together, their awareness of each other and their movement was pretty good.”

A wild first half saw Giovinco bag an early goal against the run of play to open the scoring, as he chipped a shot over Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush after latching onto a through ball from Justin Morrow.

The Italian doubled the Reds’ advantage midway through the half when he scored from in close off a setup from Osorio after giving Impact defender Samuel Piette the slip. The goal was TFC’s 500th in MLS regular-season play. Giovinco now has seven goals and five assists in his last nine MLS matches.

Osorio made it 3-0 moments later, swooping on a ball played to him by Janson and chipping it past Bush. It marked the first time this MLS season that Toronto scored three first-half goals.

Montreal stormed right back a minute later. Saphir Taïder intercepted a poor back pass by Bradley deep inside Toronto’s half, and delivered a killer pass that released teammate Alejandro Silva in on goal. The Uruguayan rushed into the box and made no mistake in blasting a shot into the top corner past goalkeeper Alex Bono. The Impact also had two goals that were ruled offside before halftime.

The second half was far more tranquil and played at a less frenetic pace, with both defences keeping things tight. Bono made a sharp diving save to deny Montreal’s Quincy Amarikwa of a goal at the near post late in regulation time. Moor made a goal-line clearance in extra time, bailing out Bono.

NOTES: Toronto leads the all-time regular-season series against Montreal, with nine wins and four draws in 19 meetings … TFC returns to MLS action next Wednesday with a road game against the Portland Timbers. The Impact host the New York Red Bulls next Saturday.

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