After naming the same team for five matches in a row, Greg Vanney might be tempted to spring a minor surprise or two when the Montreal Impact visit BMO Field on Wednesday.
Toronto FC have enjoyed great success in the MLS playoffs with their new 3-5-2 formation and the 3-2 defeat to the Impact at the Olympic Stadium is unlikely to persuade Vanney to return to a back four.
The Reds improved significantly, however, following the introduction of Will Johnson and Tosaint Ricketts on Tuesday night. The double substitution saw Toronto tweak their setup to more of a 3-4-1-2, with Sebastian Giovinco playing off Ricketts and Jozy Altidore and Johnson partnering Michael Bradley.
When asked if he would consider starting the second leg that way, Vanney kept his cards close to his chest.
“It’s a new game,” the coach said. “We have a little bit of the last game to look at and some things to consider, so I think with it being a new game a lot of things are in consideration.
“We’ll try to set ourselves up in the best way possible that we think can get at them but also protect ourselves in those moments where they transition. Everybody’s available to play and so we’ll select as we go.”
“[The injury situation is] pretty good,” he added. “Just little things guys are recovering from, nothing significant. Hopefully, through the course of the week, we keep it that way and we’ll have everybody available.”
My guess, as I wrote about after the first leg, would be Johnson coming in for Jonathan Osorio or Armando Cooper. Vanney will want to maintain a certain degree of continuity and not overreact, but he cannot risk another bad start and it is impossible to ignore the fact that Montreal had an easier path through Toronto’s midfield than he would have liked in the first leg.
Ricketts, meanwhile, has done a terrific job off the bench and I think Vanney will want to have that weapon at his disposal. That’s partly because starting all three strikers might be too reckless, but also because it is something the Impact have struggled to deal with late in the game.
In both the first leg and the previous regular-season game between the two clubs at Stade Saputo, Ricketts has changed the course of the match. If TFC are searching for a goal in the second half on Wednesday, the sight of the Canadian on the touchline will present Montreal not only with another tactical challenge but also a psychological one.