Part One, covering Montreal's lineup and form was posted yesterday
Being a short week, this preview need be brief – the match begins in a couple of hours, but still there are several concerns that must be addressed before Toronto takes the pitch against Montreal.
The primary threat Montreal will pose is embodied by Ignacio Piatti, their Argentine midfield maestro.
Acquired midway through last season, Piatti slowly made his way into the Montreal first team, making just six appearances as he dealt with nagging injuries and adjustment to his new home – joining midseason is always difficult – but still he registered four goals and an assist in 2014.
That is a pace that he has resumed this season, with three goals and three assists already to his name.
He is a dynamic attacking player, capable of scoring himself and providing the ammunition for his speedier teammate to profit.
Consider his goal against Vancouver from a couple of weeks ago. Anthony Jackson-Hamel under pressure finds Andres Romero on the right, he turns toward goal, drawing the attention of the defenders. Alert, Piatti starts to make his run, ghosting off the back-side of the centre-back Kendall Waston to receive a ball in motion, touching into the space behind Waston to beat David Ousted with a low right-footer to the right-side of goal:
That ability to surge into space is something that Toronto will have to be especially wary. It will fall to the likes of Michael Bradley, Benoit Cheyrou, and Collin Warner to spot those moves and match them, preventing Piatti from exploiting those gaps.
Further complicating such a prospect, is that Frank Klopas has wisely surrounded Piatti's talent with plenty of speedy options.
Waking the Red has projected Eric Alexander and Romero, but Maxim Tissot and Dominic Oduro are similarly disposed, while the full-backs too provide that movement out wide that both creates space and gives Piatti passing targets.
That contingent, regardless of who actually takes to the pitch, will use overlapping runs on the outside to either receive balls or drag defenders out of position. And Jack McInerney, with his knack for finding space in tight quarters, is a perfect capstone for the Impact's attack.
McInerney is capable of scoring some fine goals if given too much room – his looping finish against Orlando City was spectacular:
Aside from Piatti and McInerney, the most dangerous man on the pitch is Romero. At times petulant, when he is in form, he can be devastating.
His goal against Salt Lake was a thing of beauty, combining with Piatti in close quarters on the right to carve through the Salt Lake defenders before beating Nick Rimando with a deft chip, while his goal against Columbus, again in conjunction with Piatti, shows another of Montreal's threats – speed on the counter.
A Columbus spell of pressure late leads to a two-man break, Piatti slips a ball over to Romero on the right after holding the defender in the middle and Romero lifts his finish over Steve Clark:
Toronto will have to lock down the midfield, particularly out wide, to prevent those two from having their way. And Oduro will no doubt look to use his speed to beat the team that deemed his services expendable – his pace helped him score on the weekend against Orlando.
The TFC back-line will need to be wary of pushing too high and getting caught by a long-ball into the space behind – it was Patrice Bernier who showed his class on the Oduro goal, but Montreal has plenty of passers, including Callum Mallace and Wandrille Lefevre, as well as the more expected contributors, who can play such balls.
One final concern of note it set-pieces. Klopas can be old school at times, and a reliance on set-pieces is page one in the old school playbook.
Donny Toia scored a beauty on the weekend, making a near-post run to flick a Marco Donadel delivery into the roof of the net against Orlando, while Lefevre arrived at the back-post in New York to draw one back against City.
Toronto will have to track their marks carefully, and Montreal has plenty of targets, so every defender will have to step up to prevent such a breakthrough.
Having conceded eighteen goals through twelve matches, Montreal has struggled at the back – their clean-sheet on the weekend was just their second of the year and the first since that 0-0 draw in New England back in the third week of the season.
There are no specific major flaws, more accurately they are hurt by many little errors. Take David Villa's opener from their meeting two weeks ago.
A long ball down the left allows Ned Grabavoy to find space behind the full-back, he is allowed to find Patrick Mullins, who lays off to Mehdi Ballouchy – all well and good, except the two central defenders have both collapsed on Mullins, allowing Ballouchy to find space. Then, neither Nigel Reo-Coker, the closest defensive midfielder, nor Toia, the recovering left-back, bothers to track Villa, allowing him to receive the ball from Ballouchy and find the right-side of goal with a low shot:
Lots of little errors combine to allow for the breakthrough.
Toronto needs to concentrate on winning their individual contests and backing each other up, provide options and make those runs. Sebastian Giovinco will find the space to do his thing, but it is incumbent upon Bradley and Jonathan Osorio, as well as Jozy Altidore and Luke Moore, to make the runs that create options and make space, while forcing errors out of a fragile Montreal back-line.
That game in New York showed another weakness of the Impact when Mix Diskerud scored their second goal in the second half. Lefevre misplays a long ball, getting it caught in his feet before slipping, allowing Kwadwo Poku to nick away possession before setting up Diskerud on the right:
Lefevre did not cover himself in glory, but much of the blame must fall on his teammates, who were in no rush to get back and provide assistance, despite it being rather obvious that Villa's high pressure in the middle had removed the option of playing back to the keeper.
Toronto should look to similarly exploit such malaise in the Montreal cover. Precise pressure applied wisely can force such turnovers and Giovinco and Altidore will bury those chances.
Similarly, Montreal can be exposed by long balls, stretching their defenses wide. None of the Montreal back-line is particularly quick, and their midfield cover is a touch long in the tooth. A quick ball springing a counter can separate those two layers and force defenders into uncomfortable positions.
Chicago did just such a thing leading to Harrison Shipp's opening goal. A long ball forces Bakary Soumare wide, where he loses out to Kennedy Igboananike. Igboananike then pulls back to Shipp, who walks past the awkward block-attempt from Laurent Ciman to beat Evan Bush with a rocket to the far top-corner:
Toronto has the legs in the attack to force Montreal into such compromising positions, but the key will be to have the follow up runners arriving in the attacking third at the correct moment to really make the most of those chances – looking at Bradley, Cheyrou, and Osorio here, though Justin Morrow has shown a willingness to arrive at the back-side in recent weeks.
One final means of beating Montreal was shown against Houston, where they struggled to prevent Giles Barnes from getting no the end of a Brad Davis free-kick.
Everyone knew what would happen, though perhaps not the exact target, but one could assume Barnes was a likely candidate, but still Victor Cabrera could not get ball-side on his marker, allowing Barnes to flick on to the far-side:
Toronto does not have the sheer size and number of targets that Houston does, but if they improve their set-piece delivery, they should be able to find a chance or two from such positions. The service has to beat the first man and TFC needs a target to step up – Moore, Altidore, Damien Perquis, or Eriq Zavaleta are the obvious options; should Nick Hagglund take the pitch, or Steven Caldwell, assuming he is still in town, they become the most likely to do so.
Points of Interest
The teams have met eight times in MLS play with Toronto winning three, Montreal two, and the other three ending in draws. TFC is unbeaten in the last four matches overall, drawing two at home, winning the third, and adding a 0-2 win in Montreal last August.
Montreal has never won in Toronto, drawing three of their four league visits – even if Voyageurs Cup matches are included, they have never beaten TFC in Toronto.
This is the first three meetings this season. They will play again in Toronto on August 29 and end the season in Montreal on October 25.
This clash between Upper and Lower Canada – the 401 derby is such a brutal name, it shall now be rechristened 'The Canadas derby', at least here – falls on a special day in Quebec this season, as June 24 is Saint-Jean-Baptsite Day, officially known as La fete nationale, adding an extra bit of tension and emphasis to the heated rivalry.