It’s derby time again. Tonight, a desperate Montreal Impact team will enter BMO Field with their season hanging by a thread. Toronto FC will be there to greet them, aiming to put another dent in their rival’s playoff hopes.
The Impact are seventh in the Eastern Conference, and their 36 points have them six back of the New York Red Bulls for that final spot. Ever since that four-game winning streak in August, which TFC ended, they’re winless.
Toronto will be without some major names again on Wednesday, with neither Sebastian Giovinco nor Jozy Altidore expected to take part. Nonetheless, the Reds did put four goals past the LA Galaxy on Saturday without their first-choice strikers. They still have the firepower to find the net at BMO tonight.
Here are three things to keep an eye on for TFC in this second 401 Derby of the MLS season.
1. Be ruthless
The TSN broadcast crew has probably used the word “ruthless” to describe TFC at least once in every game the past few months. It’s not untrue; the Reds have a habit of burying teams, even beyond the 80th minute, instead of just beating them.
Well, the Impact are a prime target for such treatment. They’re a team that’s hurting right now, losing four on the trot, but a win at BMO Field could potentially turn their season around. The Reds would likely rather not see Montreal in the playoffs, and they have every opportunity to ensure they don’t by going for the jugular in the two remaining games against them.
The Reds can add another page to the history of this rivalry by almost single-handedly snuffing out the Impact’s playoff push this season. It’s in their own best interest; regardless of each team’s relative talent, all bets are off if these sides meet in another playoff tie. Anything could happen.
2. Don’t yield space
There’s little the Impact like more than a good long run set off by a long ball. They’re among the top teams in MLS in both dribbles (8.2) and accurate long balls (36.1) per game.
So, the onus is on TFC’s back line to ensure players like Ignacio Piatti and Dominic Oduro don’t have the space to go searching for that kind of play. The Reds know all too well what kind of damage Montreal can do if given space to run, or if they’re allowed to go for a quick counter.
As long as Drew Moor and his back-three companions don’t lose track of the Impact’s front players, they should be able to nullify the threat. If Piatti and co. are allowed to roam freely, though, there could be trouble.
3. Avoid the shenanigans
It would be very easy for this game to get out of hand. If TFC were to score a couple goals in the first half, as they’ve done in most recent games, Montreal are unlikely to be as deflated as the Galaxy or San Jose Earthquakes were.
The Impact have come out on the losing end of this rivalry three times in a row, dating back to the 2016 playoffs. They certainly are not going to shy away from an aggressive tackle or two. If things do get out of hand, it might be a good thing that Giovinco and Altidore are off the pitch.
Frankly, Montreal has more to play for at the moment, and a red card suspension would probably hurt them much more than Toronto (it wouldn’t be all bad if Michael Bradley was forced to rest). What could be a problem, though, is injury. TFC don’t want to lose anybody to a nasty challenge from an Impact player.
It would be in Toronto’s best interest to wrap this up early, and try to keep things level-headed (and stay away from Kyle Fisher).