Major League Soccer
3 Thoughts on Toronto's Win Over Montreal Impact
December 01, 2016
IN ONE OF THE MOST entertaining second legs in MLS playoff history, Toronto FC defeated Montreal 5-2 in extra time to advance to its first MLS Cup, where it will host the Seattle Sounders on December 10.
The game was played a very fast pace and was a joy to behold. Both teams had the advantage more than once during the first 90 minutes but Nick Hagglund’s powerful 68th-minute header was enough to force an additional 30 minutes.
In the end, Montreal lost its focus at key moments and Toronto made its Canadian rivals pay a steep price in a 5-2 (7-5 aggregate) victory.
Altidore great, Bradley needs to improve
Before the game, Bruce Arena announced he was going to attend tonight’s game in Toronto and the newly hired U.S. head coach surely was impressed with the U.S. national team striker.
Jozy Altidore was terrific all game long. Not only did he score Toronto’s second goal when he headed home a Sebastian Giovinco corner kick but his best play came in the 100th minute when he assisted on Toisaint Ricketts’ final goal of the game to clinch the victory. On that play he showed great ball control and vision to send in a perfect low cross.
But that really only tells part of the story. Altidore was everywhere in the game and his workrate was tremendous. After years of futility in Toronto dating back to its inaugural season in 2007, Altidore was a big part of the Ontario team's success. On Wednesday night he showcased his passing ability, set piece attacking, runs, and ball control.
Michael Bradley, however, did not have his best game. The game’s frantic pace did not play to his strengths and he tried to force the ball forward too many times. Against Seattle, the game has the potential to be even more intense and fast-paced and Bradley will have the difficult responsibility of helping to contain Nicolas Lodeiro. It will be a big moment for the U.S. team captain and he will need to step it up.
Set pieces sink MontrealThere is absolutely no excuse for Montreal losing this series. It was up 3-0 in the first leg and at one point and it led 4-2 on aggregate in the first half of the second leg. In the end Montreal lost 7-5 on aggregate.
But as the club and its supporters search for blame, look no further than its abysmal set piece defending which cost it the first three goals in regulation. At this point in the season, Montreal should have been far more prepared to defend set pieces and it really just appeared as if the concentration and focus was no there at key moments.
Montreal is always sleeping on set plays...Trust me I know ????— KEI KAMARA (@keikamara) December 1, 2016
Montreal is a good team and should have more room to spend without Didier Drogba in the mix. It has a very good fanbase for big games and head coach Mauro Biello has built a team that can play to its strengths very well. Ignacio Piatti is one of the best midfielders in the game and Dominic Oduro’s speed opens up games beautifully. Having a backline anchored by Laurent Ciman allows the team to sit back effectively and push forward on counter attacks.
But set piece defending is fundamental and there is no excuse for losing a game this way.
MLS gets its dream final
MLS Cup is set and Toronto FC will host the Seattle Sounders on December 10 and this could not be a better matchup for league officials or neutral fans.
First of all, you have the most popular team in the United States against the most popular team in Canada. That alone is a major storyline and is only made better when you look at the atmosphere Toronto has created for its home playoff games. It will be similar to a big-time game in a top European league thanks to the stadium environment.
Then you have two of the best foreign designated players in the history of this league in Seattle playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro and Toronto forward Sebastian Giovinco. Unlike the earlier era of designated players, both came over in their prime and elevated their teammates and played fantastic soccer.
You also have top American internationals in Seattle’s Jordan Morris along with Bradley and Altidore on Toronto. Despite Seattle losing Clint Dempsey, the team found a way to press on and move to within a game of its first-ever title.
It is hard to think of a better matchup.