Toronto FC and a sizable legion of supporters are deep in enemy territory today, with an MLS clash against the red-hot Montreal Impact on the agenda. TFC will play their bitter rivals three times before the season ends, meaning both teams will have a say in each others fate.
The Reds are looking to lock up the Supporters’ Shield, whereas Montreal, who have won four in a row, would like to cement their playoff berth. These teams know each other extremely well by now, and regardless of standings is sure to be a very even match.
Here's a trio of things for Toronto to keep an eye on tonight.
1. Play smart passes
As TFC know all too well, Montreal loves to force errors in midfield and kill teams on the counter. Toronto have been caught out on it many times before, with one player making a poor pass that ultimately ends up in the back of their own net.
This will mostly be on Michael Bradley and Victor Vazquez. TFC's spine needs to be rock-solid in retaining possession, and every pass has to be either short and safe or on the money. Ignacio Piatti just loves to murder Toronto on the counter; it's up to TFC not to give him the chance.
2. Change it up
With the amount of recent history between these two teams, both coaches definitely have a very clear picture of how the other team plays. The Impact have likely had TFC in the back of their minds for a while, figuring out how best to beat the 3-5-2.
That's why it could serve TFC well to change it up a bit. Perhaps not at the start, but if they're struggling to score through the first half, then Greg Vanney could play some serious mindgames by switching to the diamond out of the blue. Montreal probably won't have prepared for that as much.
3. Shut down Piatti
TFC know all too well what Montreal's best player can do. When he's on form, which he certainly is right now, he's unstoppable. The Impact are on a four-game winning streak, in large part due to Piatti’s six goals in that stretch.
The Argentine forward will do his best to get in behind TFC’s back three, so someone like Blerim Dzemaili can feed him on the counter. One of the Toronto defenders (possibly Chris Mavinga because of his pacey tackling ability) will need to be glued to him the whole time.
If that bell rings in Montreal, it’ll almost certainly be because of Piatti. TFC's back line cannot lose track of him.