If there is one game that every Toronto FC fan has marked on their calendar, it's the derby against Montreal. As soon as the schedule was released, I started making my plans to get to Montreal for the match. There are a lot of things one has to figure out when doing an away trip in North America. Accommodation, transportation, and match tickets are just some of the things that are required to be handled. You have to remember, the closest road trip for Toronto (Montreal/Columbus) would be the farthest road-trip in the Premier League (Southampton to Newcastle).
The Montreal Impact Front Office did not make getting tickets the easiest of affairs, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I had no idea that my seat was confirmed until a week prior to the match. It put me on edge because the other portions of my trip were already booked and the ticket form had been submitted some months before. The FO told us that the tickets were guaranteed and they would call to take payment, but they just disappeared for two months. It all ended up working out in the end, however, and we were due to leave for Montreal at 6 PM on April 22nd, one day before the match.
My buddy, Karan and I, get to Toronto's Union Station quite early in the day and take in the beautiful weather in downtown Toronto, before leaving to Montreal. We eventually meet our other friend, Aly, at around 5 pm and make our way to the VIA Rail gate to check-in. I had never taken a VIA train before, but I had been told that that it was very comfortable and quicker than driving to Montreal.
Once inside the train, I knew that what I had heard was definitely true. It was quite spacious inside and there was staff coming around with food trolleys, every hour or so. It takes us only about 4 and a half hours to get into Montreal, but the train had been a good time for all three of us. We were all really looking forward to the away-day and TFC songs started making the rounds on the train, though it seemed like we were the only visible TFC fans onboard. I can barely stand by the time we arrive at Montreal's Central Station, such had consumption been on the train. Either way, it was getting late and we just go to our hotel to catch up on some sleep, in anticipation of the big day.
I wake up the next day and get ready to head out to McLean's, which is the Red Patch Boys' pre-match pub in Montreal. From my previous experience, travelling away to Montreal, McLean's have always been gracious hosts and so our group was really looking forward to meeting up with the rest of the supporters there. Luckily, our hotel was just down the street from the pub and so we quickly walk to get there for 11 a.m. Already, the bar area was filled Toronto FC supporters of all ages. There were the regulars that we recognized from Toronto, there was a group from Ottawa, and just TFC fans from everywhere that had made into the city.
We even met a man from the Maritimes that said he makes it to Montreal for every Toronto FC away game there. It was great to be in one location with so many Toronto FC fans, outside of Toronto. After a while of having food and drink, Aly and I start to warm up our vocal chords, in hopes of getting everyone at McLean's involved. Classics like "Oh When the Reds" among others make the rounds and I can really tell that everyone was getting into it.
My other friend, Karan, is awed by the whole experience as it's his first time going to any Toronto FC match. Finally, around 2 PM we start to make our way outside of McLean's to go to Stade Saputo as one huge group. McLean's empties out, as do a few adjacent pubs with more TFC fans. What transpires after this point is one of the most epic experience I've ever had as a Toronto FC fan.
We start walking towards Peel Station and the entire group of Toronto FC fans (about 100 and us included) start chanting on our walk. Downtown Montreal is looking at us as if we are nutters, but they are amused. Once we make into the metro station, things get even louder. We are stood there on platform singing and chanting. All of us start bouncing for the "We Love You" chant and once we get inside the metro train, we go on a rampage of chants and nearly knock the train off of its tracks.
It was an incredible experience from the pub to Viau Station, where Saputo Stadium is located. Karan is buzzing from the atmosphere, as it's his first experience of Toronto FC, home or away. He tells me that this is one the best experiences of his life. We make our way, on foot, from Viau Station to the stadium and there is a specified path we have to follow. The Impact FO had given us special instructions on how to obtain our physical tickets, before the match. We had to check-in at a particular gate of the stadium and show our identification. They wanted to make sure that they could attach a name to each ticket if anything went wrong. I didn't blame them, but some of the security check-points were way over the top.
After about 45 minutes of standing in line, we finally get to the away supporters' section at Stade Saputo. Visually, it looks stunning with about 300 Reds in our area. Everyone is singing and creating a great atmosphere. I can feel that something good is going to happen today.
Without getting into too much detail about the match, there are some chances for both sides. TFC is playing a little bit more defensively, as is expected in an away match. There's a golden opportunity missed by Jonathan Osorio, but the moment of the first half comes in the 40th minute. Jozy Altidore collects a pass on the left side of the box and makes his way in. He clearly beats the Montreal defender but is tripped right in the box. PENALTY! No question! Seba steps up, goes to the same left side that he always does, and GOAL! The away supporters go crazy all around us. I am jumping and hugging people that I don't even know. We were leading 1-0 going into the 2nd half!
The 2nd half starts off to a flier and Montreal goes on the attack, but we have the best defence in the league and deal with everything that is coming our way. It doesn't look like they are going to beat us today. Drogba has a few good chances, but they are dealt with by the TFC defence, quite easily. Toronto seals the game in the 81st minute when Will Johnson finds Sebastian Giovinco and he coolly finishes in the bottom right corner! Bedlam in the stands!
The away sections start celebrating and chanting with everything we've got. Many new and classic chants make their way into our celebrations. There is one particular funny chant, about Didier Drogba, that everyone is singing with a smile on their faces. In the end, the final whistle blows and happiness overcomes us Torontonians. We had just beaten the Impact 2-0, in Montreal. The team comes over to clap us; we know we've been loud and proud.
After the match concluded, we were held back in the stadium for 30 minutes and told to board one of the many school buses outside of the stadium. For safety reasons, the Montreal FO had hired buses to take the Toronto FC fans back into downtown. I must admit that that was a good move by them, especially because I was so critical before. We get back to downtown Montreal and prepare to have a night of celebration and drinking.
We go back to McLean's and many of the Toronto FC fans have found their way back there, as well. We start to celebrate the win and our night in Montreal. I meet a lot of new people that regularly attend matches at BMO and it's a great time hanging at McLean's. We join some other supporters in bar-hopping and eventually make our way to a pub that some other TFC supporters' groups are partying in. It became a night of chanting, jumping, and lots of drinking. So much so, that I don't remember how I got back to the hotel the next day. Best away day ever!
The next day, it was off back to Montreal Central Station and the train ride home to Toronto. During the ride, I think to myself - Following a football team on the road is unlike anything else. You go there with
hundreds of people for the same purpose, for the same outcome. There is a sense of camaraderie and everyone that's representing your colours is part of the same family. You see old friends, make new ones too, and keep memories that will last a life time. Out of the few road trips I have done in my life, this trip to Montreal was the best one. Yes, the result did help!