TFC -V- Montreal: Happy Endings
TFC were out of the playoff picture a long time ago, but this game presented the opportunity to thwart, or at least dent, Montreal’s hopes of reaching them. A win at BMO and they were in … A loss and their participation in the post-season would be decided by results elsewhere the next day.
It doesn’t matter which sport you are discussing, Toronto and Montreal always have a natural rivalry and although it is mostly amiable, we do like to see our neighbours from along the 401 lose at every opportunity, in any sport, and against almost anyone, but especially against our home city teams. TFC -V- Impact is no different in that respect.
This was the 6th meeting between the teams in MLS play. Last year TFC had the slight edge with 4 goals scored compared to Impact’s 2 and an overall record of 1-1-1. This year the record was 0-1-1 going into this game and Impact having the edge with 5 goals scored to TFC’s 4. In the end, our 1-0 victory on the day would make it 1-1-1 again and 5 goals apiece.
It was disappointing to see the teamsheet before the game. coach Nelsen had opted for Bendik in goal rather than last week’s hero Stefan Frei who was back on the bench, and Eckersley was nowhere to be seen within the matchday squad for the 3rd week in a row. Both players are virtual certainties to be headed out of TFC now that the season is over and TFC fans had hoped to be able to say a proper goodbye to both, especially to Frei who would have been the first player to reach 100 appearances had he taken to the field in this match. Sentiment aside though, Bendik was man of the match for TFC in this game and some might wonder if the result might have been different if Frei was in goal? We will never know.
The first half was literally all TFC. After 16 minutes a Jonathan Osorio shot was deflected by Earnshaw and the re-direction left Perkins with no chance. Later in the half, Dike and Earnshaw both had chances which were cleared and then Osorio forced Perkins to tip a shot just past. 5 minutes before the half-time whistle, Bekker hit the bar and then just on the stroke of HT Earnshaw saw his effort tipped over the bar by Perkins. This continued into the second half with Steven Caldwell also finding the woodwork just after the restart.
It took until 53 minutes for Montreal to register a shot on target. Di Vaio cleverly flicked the ball to Arnaud and although he just had the keeper to beat, Bendik stepped up and thwarted him, the first of several occasions where he made big saves on the day. Di Vaio did have the ball in the back of the net in 61 minutes but it was called back by the linesman for a handball and didnt count. TFC almost nabbed a second with 10 minutes to go but Bernardello cleared off the line with Perkins beaten. The final few minutes saw Montreal pressing hard for an equaliser and Bendik had to make a few stops, but none bigger than his save of the day from Romero late on.
A satisfying 1-0 win to end another miserable season and for Toronto FC to reflect on the fact that despite being the first Canadian team to enter MLS, both of the other teams have beaten us to the playoffs, and both did it in their second seasons in MLS …. Vancouver did it last year and were ousted by eventual winners LA Galaxy in the wildcard game in the west. Montreal have made to the eastern wildcard game this year thanks to results going their way on Sunday and will face Houston on the 31st. Here’s hoping for a Halloween Horror Show in Houston on Thursday!!! Ever the optimists, some TFC fans I spoke with on Saturday night pointed out that after Montreal lose to Houston, maybe next year we can qualify and actually host the first ever playoff game on Canadian soil …..???