The day is finally here: a 4 p.m. eastern Toronto FC will play the Montreal Impact in the first 401 derby of 2016. In doing so they will open up scars of last year's 3-0 playoff loss at Saputo Stadium, one of the lowest moments in club history. They won't be able to get full revenge today, but a win against the Eastern Conference's top team would be a good way to start.
Waking the Red caught up with John Richan of Mount Royal Soccer to give us some insight into today's opponent, and their strong start to the season.
1. What is the best way that Toronto FC can shut down Didier Drogba, the biggest thorn in their side in recent meetings?
This is the million dollar question! I think the most dangerous aspect regarding Drogba's game is that he can score from many different situations; whether it be via open play, corner kicks, or other dead ball situations. If TFC is able to cut off the service that Drogba receives from the midfielders it will go a long way towards shutting him down. The other side of the coin, in regards to shutting down Drogba, is tight marking. We have seen so many times that if Didier is given even half-an-inch he is able to redirect a shot into the back of the opposition goal. Shutting down Drogba is a challenge but it can be done, as Columbus showed last year in the playoffs.
2. The Impact are at the top of the Eastern Conference, what has led to their success this season?
A big part of the early season success can be linked to head coach Mauro Biello and being able to keep the core of the team in place from last season. One thing that has hurt Montreal since they began in MLS is the constant turnover, both coaches, and players. Being able to start 2016 with an almost identical starting eleven to how they ended 2015 has been huge. On the other side, not enough good things can be said about Mauro Biello. The former Impact player has the players all working in the same direction and the attitude around the team seems to be at an all-time high.
3. Kyle Bekker was a controversial character during his time with Toronto FC, what has he brought to the Montreal Impact this year?
I finished the last answer with what Biello has been doing right, and I will start this response in the same vein. I think Biello has a great eye for being able to put young players in situations where they can succeed, and Bekker is a great example of this. Prior to Biello being head coach, a lot of players in Montreal never really received a shot at being included in the game day squad. After Donadel went down with an early season injury Bekker was given he opportunity to start, and he has taken it and excelled. With Biello at the helm, he looks for opportunities to insert young Canadian talent in the lineup in positions where they can succeed and so far it has been working wonders.