Talk about a momentum killer. The international break could not have come at a worse time for Toronto FC, who were playing their best soccer of the year through the first two rounds of the MLS playoffs. Toronto's dominant 5-0 victory over New York City FC at Yankee Stadium now seems like a distant memory.
Tonight, Toronto FC will see if they can pick things up where they left off when they face their biggest test yet: their arch rivals the Montreal Impact in the MLS Eastern Conference final. It is the farthest Toronto FC has gone in the playoffs, where they will face the team that eliminated them just a year ago.
As a result, there is no shortage of storylines going into this match, perhaps the biggest club soccer game in Canadian history. Below are the ones to watch for during tonight's match.
A True Road Game
Toronto FC will be going into uncharted territory tonight when they go into the Olympic Stadium in Montreal for tonight's match. Yes, TFC has played a road match so far these playoffs, but there really wasn't much life in the Yankee Stadium crowd after what Toronto had accomplished in the home leg.
Tonight, Toronto will face a true test away from home, intimating atmosphere and all. The Impact, recognising the spectacle, have sold out one of the biggest stadiums in the country, with 61,004 people expected to be in attendance for tonight's match. If the 2015 CONCACAF Champions League final is any evidence, this is going to be an atmosphere like nothing TFC has ever faced.
It won't always be comfortable for the reds, who have fed off their home crowd plenty during this playoff run. Yes, there will still be red in the crowd tonight, but it will likely be significantly outweighed by all the blue.
The "Big O" Conditions
A massive crowd isn't the only thing that Toronto FC will have to deal with tonight, they will also be playing on a questionable surface. Pre-game reports from Montreal suggest that the turf in Montreal's Olympic Stadium is not in particularly good shape. This will only get worse if the weather is inclement, and it is expected to be reasonably cold tonight in Montreal.
Toronto FC has been doing their part, preparing on turf at the KIA Training Ground this week. However, that can only partially prepare them for the real thing. Hopefully, everyone has been stretching their hamstrings properly.
Don't Forget About Didier
All of the advertising leading into this game, all of the columns and the radio hits have dubbed this matchup as Ignacio Piatti against Sebastian Giovinco. That is more than fair, Piatti has caused the Toronto backline more problems than anyone else on the Montreal team.
However, despite being an afterthought for much of the second half of the season, Toronto FC need to always be aware of game-breaking abilities of Didier Drogba. They dealt with him well the last time they faced him, but with the stakes higher than ever and a loud crowd behind him don't expect Drogba to be anything but at his best should he get significant playing time.
To be released at 7 p.m. Eastern
Stadium: Olympic Stadium Montreal, Quebec
Kickoff: 8:00 p.m. Eastern
SB Nation Opposition Blog: Mount Royal Soccer
TV: TSN1 & 3
Streaming: TSN Go
Radio: TSN 1050