Welcome to Counter Attack, Sportsnet’s Monday column that recaps the weekend and previews the week ahead for the three Canadian teams in Major League Soccer.
Weekend summed up in a paragraph
Vancouver stumbled at home as Matias Laba was sent off, Toronto ended a four-game losing streak with a valuable road win, and Montreal gears up for the biggest match in franchise history this week.
What happened this weekend?
• Montreal Impact: 0-2-2, 2 points (10th in Eastern Conference)
• Toronto FC: 2-4-0, 6 points (7th in Eastern Conference)
• Vancouver Whitecaps: 5-3-1, 16 points (1st in Western Conference)
What did we learn this weekend?
TFC’s DPs have to be their best players: It’s not something we learned so much as something that we were reminded of on the weekend. Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore have been pretty average since the Reds’ season-opening win in Vancouver. Burt against Orlando, the American pair linked up to great effect, with Altidore bagging a brace and Bradley having a commanding performance in midfield. Sebastian Giovinco didn’t score, but he was very lively and kept Orlando’s defence on its toes with his trickery and quick runs. When all three play well TFC tends to win.
The Whitecaps need to settle down: Make it two games out of three in which one of the Whitecaps’ designated players have been expelled. Vancouver had influential midfielder Pedro Morales back in the starting 11 after the Chilean served his one-game suspension, but Matias Laba earned two yellow cards in the first half of Saturday’s loss, ruling him out for this weekend’s road contest vs. Portland. Already on a yellow, Laba needlessly picked up a second yellow eight minutes later as D.C. broke forward, even though he had teammates well-positioned to thwart United’s attack. The Argentine should have shown better judgement. Vancouver’s lack of discipline is a bit troubling, as they lead MLS in red cards (two), yellow cards (26) and fouls committed (133). Even though they have the depth to weather the absence of Laba, the Whitecaps as a team have to display far more discipline.
TFC’s 3 DPs link up
• Montreal vs. Club America (Wednesday, 8:00 pm ET)
• Philadelphia vs. Toronto (Saturday, 4:00 pm ET)
• Portland vs. Vancouver (Saturday, 10:30 pm ET)
Wednesday programming alert: Watch Montreal Impact vs. Club America in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final live on Sportsnet ONE and Sportsnet World. Coverage starts at 8:00 pm ET/5:00 pm PT. || Sportsnet World NOW || Broadcast schedule
Stories to follow
Impact go for CONCACAF glory: Few pundits gave Montreal much of a chance of escaping Azteca last week without receiving a spanking from Club America, never mind earning a positive result. But the Impact’s 1-1 draw has them in control of the CONCACAF Champions League final ahead of the second leg Wednesday at a sold out Olympic Stadium. No MLS side has ever won this tournament, and it’s amazing to think that Montreal, dead last in the league a season ago, is 90 minutes away from pulling it off. Montreal was well organized defensively in the first half of the opening leg before riding its luck in the final 45 minutes. They need a strong 90-minute performance where they prove to be tough for Club America to break down, while at the same time not let their emotions get away from them in what is sure to be a one-in-a-lifetime experience for most of the Montreal players. Composure of the highest order is required.
The rebirth of Morgan: Canadian Ashtone Morgan had another strong night in Orlando—he was sound in his defensive positioning, and dangerous when he bombed forward to give some width to the attack. Starved for playing time last season, Morgan has impressed as a starter this campaign, and is doing so well that coach Greg Vanney conceded that it’s not unreasonable to expect the Canadian to continue to hold down the starting left fullback position and to see Justin Morrow (one of the league’s best left-sided defenders) keep playing at right fullback even when Mark Bloom returns to full health. “I think Ashtone has been outstanding, and he’s had great moments in the attacking half,” Vanney stated. “As long as he keeps doing that and Justin is a rock on the other side, I’m okay with things.”
A new partner for Whitecaps’ Waston?: Kendall Waston has been a standout for Vancouver this season, with the Costa Rican centre back marshalling the defence with aplomb. The same cannot be said of Pa Modou Kah. The Norwegian has been sloppy in possession and has consistently committed at least one major gaffe every time he starts. Against D.C. his errant back pass (without even looking, no less) led to a goal scoring chance that went begging. Diego Rodriguez has been out injured, but the Uruguayan is back and looked very solid when he partnered Waston. Another option is Christian Dean. It’ll be interesting to see if coach Carl Robinson tries a new central defensive paring vs. Portland or if he sticks with the veteran Kah.
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