Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact
BMO Field Toronto, ON
The headliner: rivalry week and the 401 derby.
Outside of the Canadian championship, this is the biggest 401 derby of all time. For once, both Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact are in a similar place in the MLS standings. In fact if the Impact win this match they pass Toronto FC in the MLS east.
That adds an extra wrinkle to a game that is already going to be heated between these two historic cities. All week long there has been talk from both teams about how little they like each other. Meanwhile, Toronto FC will come into this match angry considering how they lost to New York City FC.
It is important that the Reds use that energy, not to come out and goon it up against the Impact but to beat their opponents to every ball and dictate the play. They did a good job of this against New York but weren't able to finish the chances they created.
On the Montreal side of things, they are in good form as the third best points per game team in the East. After a slow start and a poor 2014 they were looked at as one of the league's worst teams. So far they have prove that this narrative is incorrect.
Key to the game: Laurent Ciman vs. Jozy Altidore
As aforementioned, Toronto FC did a good job of controlling the game and tempo against New York. The problem came in the final third where they failed the penetrate the defence. Josh Saunders was good but Toronto would have liked to test him a lot more than they did.
That's why Jozy Altidore's return to the starting lineup is so important. Not only can the American finish chances himself he is a player who creates plenty of space for those around him. Today he will give the Impact something extra to think about should they go after Sebastian Giovinco like New York did so effectively last game.
Standing in his way will be Montreal's Laurent Ciman. The Belgian international has been integral to the Impact's early success as well as their Champions League run. He is among the favourites for the league's newcomer of the year and may well be its best defender. As such he is more than capable to challenging Altidore.
Whoever prevails in this matchup could well see his team prevail in a crucial game.
Starting XI: Konopka; Morrow, Zavaleta, Perquis, Creavalle; Warner, Osorio, Delgado, Bradley; Altidore, Giovinco
Surprisingly Chris Konopka will stay in goal after giving up two against New York. Midweek training seemed to indicate otherwise. Warren Creavalle will replace Ashtone Morgan on the backline. Meanwhile, one of the constant presences in Toronto's midfield, Benoit Cheyrou will be replaced by the young Marky Delgado. The American impressed many at the recent U20 World Cup in New Zealand.