Ding, ding, ding! Round Two!
Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact renew acquaintances this evening at Stade Saputo for the second leg of their Voyageurs Cup series.
A 2-0 aggregate sees the visitors enter with the advantage after a reserve-laden first leg afforded them that luxury, thanks to goals from Doneil Henry and Andrew Wiedeman.
The Impact fans were a touch upset with the club’s decision to not field a first-choice eleven, letting their dissatisfaction be known with a the cold shoulder through the first half of Saturday’s match versus Chicago and myriad banners – to spell out their grievances, lest the message not be clearly received.
The match ended 2-0 to the home side, with Andres Romero scoring a rocket and Marco Di Vaio dribbling one into the corner after a predatory turn.
At the time of writing, this intrepid contributor is riding the bus into town for the finale, just leaving the comforts of home; bound for the wilderness of Quebec.
A closer look at Montreal, albeit a brief one, is in order.
As cheekily predicted by some pundits, Alessandro Nesta’s fitness concerns will likely see him miss out – he was removed minutes into the second half against Chicago.
Karl Ouimette, who was rested on the weekend, will most likely return to the centre of defense, alongside either Hassoun Camara, or Wandrille Lefevre, who filled in admirably for Nesta, contributing an assist minutes into his MLS debut.
Maxime Tissot too was rested, and should return to the pitch, as will Patrice Bernier, who missed his first start for eons, only entering the fray in the second half, after Montreal had taken the lead – presumably to lock down the midfield.
Evan Bush should return to the net, while the likes of Andrew Wenger, Justin Mapp, and Sanna Nyassi could contend as well.
Now, the question that remains is how will coach Marco Schallibaum – and the rest of the Impact front office, it must be said – react to both their first leg loss and the discontented fans. Here's what Joey Saputo had to say
Responding to the comments from our fans...no one is more disappointed than I am, We gambled and lost; time to regroup. It ain't over folks.— Joey Saputo (@JoeySaputo) April 25, 2013
Do they go all out to claw back the result at home? Or do they stay the course?
Ryan Nelsen’s decision was made much easier by the result last week and Schallibaum’s all the more difficult.
Montreal played their full complement of Italian-Argentine attackers – Di Vaio, Andrea Pisanu, Andres Romero, and newcomer Daniele Paponi for most, if not all, of Saturday’s match and to ask them to go again could be folly.
The early withdrawal of Brazilian midfield creator, Felipe, after an hour, lends some indication that he will likely start against TFC.
Formation too is an unknown, with Schallibaum trotting out a more attacking 4-4-2 on the weekend; dare he again this evening?
Schallibaum does not strike as the sort to have his plans muddled by the emotions of the fans, he will likely have planned alternate lineups, dependant on the result of leg one, but should expect howls of derision should anything but a strongest lineup fail once more.
Highlights of last match
The Yorkies – The Matchup: Bon Voyageurs?
CSA – Stage set for decisive night
Duncan, Sportsnet – All to play for
Michael Crampton, Canadian Soccer News – Defense First
Kurtis Larson, Toronto Sun – Cup Chess Match
John Molinaro, Sportsnet – TFC limps into Montreal
Lori Ewing, Globe & Mail – Nelsen to field strongest team
Out of Touch – Update VCup Contest Standings
Gavin Day, MLSsoccer.com – NASL teams to face playoff round in 2014
What lies in store? Who knows? But should be a cracker!
Enjoy the match; the late-night return bus trip will either be most triumphant or duly miserable.