TORONTO – If the Montreal Impact think they’ll have an easy time of it against Toronto FC, they need only ask the LA Galaxy what it’s like to play the Reds when they’re missing their two starting forwards.
Last Saturday, TFC touched down in California and spanked the Galaxy 4-0 in one of the most dominant and balanced performances of the season from coach Greg Vanney’s side.
The demolition job was all the more impressive when you consider Toronto was missing Sebastian Giovinco (quad tightness) and Jozy Altidore (lower-body injury), who between them combined for 28 goals this campaign, and form the most lethal scoring combination in Major League Soccer.
Most clubs in MLS would have struggled for goals without their top two forwards in the line-up, but not TFC. In his first start since late May, Canadian Tosaint Ricketts ably filled the void left by the absent dynamic duo by scoring a brace, while Victor Vazquez and Drew Moor also found the back of the net.
Now, Toronto will have to find a way to do it again, as Giovinco and Altidore have both been ruled out for Wednesday night’s home game against the Impact.
If the Reds have proven anything, though, it’s that they can score. Toronto boasts the best attack in MLS, with 63 goals. No less than 15 different players have scored for the Reds this season, demonstrating the depth of their scoring prowess. Toronto has won six games in a row, netting at least three goals in each of those contests, and has outscored the opposition 21-3 in that run.
How does Vanney account for this offensive outburst?
“One of the things is, the ball is circulating better. I think we are being a little bit more patient about the opportunities that we are trying to take, because the ball is circulating and we’re getting guys into better spots. We’re getting the ball into better areas to finish off,” he said.
“With that patience, a lot of our shots and a lot of the opportunities that we’re getting are just better looks on goal.”
You can see that every time the Reds have taken to the pitch in recent weeks. You can also see how the team is so loose, and playing with a great deal of confidence. That’s due, in part, to Vanney’s tactical blueprint of how he wants TFC to play, and the players buying into it.
“We’ve reached a point where the guys understand the principles by which we’re expected to play, and the things that we’re trying to do in the game on both sides of the ball,” Vanney said.
Montreal’s visit to BMO Field is ill-timed, with the clubs going in completely different directions.
Toronto (18-3-8, 62 points) is riding an 11-game unbeaten run (with seven wins). They’re also undefeated at home in 15 regular-season games (with 12 wins), a streak that dates back to last October.
While TFC looks a sure bet to finish the regular season in first place and have already clinched a post-season berth, the Impact are fighting for their playoff lives.
Montreal (10-12-6, 36 points) is seventh in the Eastern Conference, six points and one spot out of a playoff berth with six games remaining. The Impact are coming off a disappointing 3-2 loss at home to Minnesota United, and have lost their last three matches – this after winning four straight.
Another loss on Wednesday wouldn’t officially eliminate the Impact from playoff contention, but it would put a major dent in their post-season aspirations.
Despite the Impact’s poor run of form, Vanney believes they will pose a dangerous threat.
“They’ll come in fighting for their lives, so with all teams in that scenario they’re going play hard, [and] it’s going to be high intensity,” Vanney said. “They’re going to fight for every ball and every inch on the field.
“If we can get possession of the ball, if we can get the first goal, if we can move them around, frustrate them in one way, shape or form, not allow them to gain any momentum in the game, then I think that’s where you can get a team to waiver a little bit.”
NOTES: Wednesday’s match at BMO Field is the second of three regular season meetings between TFC and the Impact. Toronto earned a 3-1 decision in Montreal on Aug. 27. TFC also bested the Impact in the two-leg final of the Canadian Club Championship. They’ll meet for the third and final time of the MLS campaign on Oct. 15 in Toronto during the penultimate week of the regular season… Toronto’s next outing is a road game against the New England Revolution on Saturday. Look for both Giovinco and Altidore to be kept out of that game, too.