TORONTO — Forget about the rivalry. Forget about tactics. Forget statistics. Forget the story lines. Forget any narrative.
None of that mattered on this night. All you really need to know is this was one damn entertaining soccer game to watch.
Toronto FC defeated the Montreal Impact 3-1 on Wednesday night, with both sides combining to put on a thrilling show for the 24,895 fans in attendance at BMO Field.
TFC’s three designated players were the stars: Captain Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco each scored and collected an assist, and Jozy Altidore netted the winner. It marked the first time all three of the Reds’ DPs scored in the same match.
“I do understand and appreciate that that was for a spectator a fun game to watch. It was a good soccer game—there wasn’t a lot of non-sense in it. It was just two good teams going at it,” TFC coach Greg Vanney said.
It was also a convincing “bounce-back” win for the Reds after being battered and bruised by a physical and cynical New York City FC in last weekend’s 2-0 home loss.
“Overall, I was pleased with the performance. I could be nitpicky, but it’s good to bounce back from a tough (loss to New York) and step forward and get three points,” Vanney offered.
Montreal had its moments, too, with Argentine playmaker Ignacio Piatti exquisitely pulling the creative strings and the Impact using their speed to unsettle the Reds on the counter-attack.
With the victory, Toronto improved to 7-6-1 on the season, while Montreal fell to 5-6-2. The Impact could have leapfrogged TFC for fourth place in the Eastern Conference had they won.
Vanney was forced to make two lineup changes due to illness. Marky Delgado came in for midfielder Benoit Cheyrou (calf), while right fullback Warren Creavalle replaced Ashtone Morgan (flu). With Morgan out, Justin Morrow returned to left fullback. The other Toronto change saw Altidore come in for Luke Moore.
Delgado, fresh off a stint with the U.S. team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, was making his MLS debut for Toronto. Delgado had a strong game—he was steady when on the ball and in distribution.
The first half was played at a quick pace, with TFC dominating possession, and the Impact soaking up the pressure and hitting out on the counter. Montreal caught the hosts on the transition to open the scoring in the 19th minute. Piatti undressed Morrow, one of the best left fullbacks in MLS, before delivering a cross into the box. Collen Warner cleared it but Impact defender Ambroise Oyongo hit a great half-volley from 20 yards out that nestled just inside the post.
Toronto put together some lovely passing sequences, including one that led to the equalizer in the 27th minute. A Damien Perquis ball out from the back freed Giovinco down the right flank. The Italian deked around Lauren Ciman before delivering a great pass into the box for Bradley, who made a brilliantly-timed late run into the box to tap home from six yards. Giovinco now owns the TFC club record for most assists in a single season with seven.
Bradley turned provider just after the break, angling a perfect long pass from his half for Altidore. The TFC forward controlled it in full stride off his chest, took a few steps and then beat Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush with a low drive at the far post.
Bradley nearly added a second assist moments later when he played Giovinco in on goal, but the Italian’s shot hit the post. Giovinco wouldn’t be denied, though. He was brought down by Bakary Soumare in the box and then converted from the penalty spot in the 82nd minute.
“All three of them (Bradley, Giovnco and Altidore) were excellent and they all played off of each other and combined to create a lot of problems for Montreal,” Vanney offered.
Giovinco was given a well-deserved standing ovation by the appreciative crowd when he was subbed out in the final minutes. Incredibly, the Italian has either scored or set up 15 of Toronto’s 22 goals this MLS season—eight goals and seven assists, both team highs.
“I’m not thinking about stats; I’m just focused on playing and doing my best, and then everything positive will come from that,” Giovinco said through an interpreter.
NOTES: Toronto leads the all-time MLS series with Montreal, winning four of nine games with three draws. The Reds are unbeaten in five home games vs. the Impact (two wins and three draws)… These teams will meet again this season in MLS play: Aug. 29 in Toronto and Oct. 25 in Montreal… TFC returns to MLS action on Saturday when they host D.C. United. The Impact visit the Philadelphia Union on the same day.