For the second straight home tie in the Voyageurs Cup it was a late goal that ruined a positive result for Toronto FC. The club now heads to Montreal next Wednesday needing a win, when it could have been so much simpler.
Justin Mapp's equalizer gave the Montreal Impact the advantage on away goals heading into the second leg. It was a superb individual effort, and a brilliant finish from the midfielder to give the match a 1-1 finish.
Other than that, Toronto gave up very few chances, aside from a spell to start the second half. At the centre of yet another defensive performance was someone who has been the outlier to that fact as of late: Doneil Henry.
Henry has always said that he won't back down from criticism when he plays poorly, but that he also likes to be credited when he plays well. On this occasion he absolutely deserves the latter. For the second straight Voyageurs Cup match Henry scored. But on this occasion he took care of business on the other end of the field as well.
"I really do work hard to try to train myself to get a feeling for connection with the ball from the corner kicks," said Henry, explaining that it was a set play that worked to perfection.
As for his play of late, Henry was confident despite the disappointments that have plagued recently.
"I needed to get myself back into the lineup," said Henry. "It’s been a rough month but ups and downs happen. I’m happy to be back on the pitch and play the full 90 minutes."
The rest of the defence equally deserves praise. Nick Hagglund was superb at fullback, playing an aggressive match that often handicapped the Impact. Ashtone Morgan rarely showed the offensive flash down the wings he has in the past, but defensively he was excellent. Caldwell was his usual self, although he would do well to keep his hands closer to his body.
His phantom handball was a major topic of conversation after the match, with many parties weighing in. Montreal manager Frank Klopas was quick to point out his disappointment with the officiating, saying there should have been two hand balls that translated into penalties. Ryan Nelsen, as can be expected, saw it differently.
"Did it hit Steven’s hand? Probably, yeah," said Nelsen. "Did the guy push Alvaro Rey in the back in the first half? Of course he did. So that’s one for one."
Rey did not handle the non-call well, and was lucky not to have earned himself a straight red. His lack of discipline was the not the only negative in yet another disappointing performance from the Spaniard. On the other wing, Daniel Lovitz was nothing but superb, especially from dead balls. It was his excellent corner that was finished by Doneil Henry.
"I thought Daniel Lovitz was extremely lively," explained Nelsen. "He is a lovely pick that we brought in and he has showed the benefits of playing in the lower league and getting games"
Up front, Gilberto and Dwayne De Rosario did everything except score. For Gilberto, he continues to ride the perfect line between a failure to score, and playing well enough otherwise to continue to start. But after this performance, De Rosario definitely deserves some time beside Jermain Defoe.
Tactically, Nelsen’s failure to use his substitutes when the game was clearly going against his club in the second half was concerning. It is a theme that has continued to plague him as a manager, and plague the team as a result.
The second leg is definitely going to be a tough ask for Toronto. There will be ghosts of last year's embarrassing second leg defeat in Montreal for many, a 6-0 win that sent the Impact to the final. But Toronto should take solace in the fact that they were able to contain Montreal’s starters with only five of their own.
"A lot to play for in the second leg," said Bradley Orr. "It’s only half time so you got to go into the away leg now looking to win. That’s what we got to do if we want to win the cup."