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Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact: Canadian Championship first-leg preview and lineup prediction

Toronto and Montreal reignite their rivalry with a trophy on the line

Michael Bradley embraces Justin Morrow in the latest edition of the 401 Derby
(Tagwa Moyo/Waking the Red)

Heading in opposite directions in their MLS seasons, Toronto FC and Montreal Impact will rekindle their heated rivalry tonight in the opening leg of the Canadian Championship final at the Stade Saputo in Montreal, QC.

There have 43 games in all competitions played between these two sides, including the 2016 MLS Eastern Conference Finals and famous “Miracle in Montreal”. In their two encounters this season, Toronto has gotten the better of Montreal on both occasions (a 2-0 shutout on July 13 in Montreal and a 2-1 win on August 24 at BMO Field).

As Waking The Red's Martyn Bailey explained in his latest "By The Numbers" piece:

"There is no opponent that Toronto FC have played more often, beaten more often, or scored against with higher frequency than the Montreal Impact."

Sounds pretty good, eh?

Unbeaten in their last nine competitions, Toronto FC will look to build on that Wednesday night, as they travel to Montreal in search of crucial away goals in the two-legged tie. In the midst of a busy September, the Reds are fresh off a 3-2 win over the Colorado Rapids on Sunday after a late Jonathan Osorio winner prevented TFC from blowing a two-goal lead.

Speaking of Osorio, he loves playing in the Canadian Championship. As we learned in Martyn’s piece, with one more goal, the Brampton, Ont.-native can tie Sebastian Giovinco for the all-time club record in Voyageurs Cup goals (6).

And he’s certainly capable.

Last year, Osorio earned the George Gross Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player in the Canadian Championship, as he led TFC to their third-straight trophy. The Reds will try to make it four Voyageurs Cups in a row and second in three seasons over the Impact. They defeated Montreal (3-2 agg.) in 2017 en route to their treble winning season.

Unlike Toronto, the Impact have struggled lately. They’ve lost three out of their last four MLS matches, capped off by a surprising 1-0 home defeat to Eastern Conference bottom feeders Cincinnati FC. Expect them, led by leading-scorer Saipher Taider and 2019 signing Bojan, to come out hungry in this one.

This fixture means a lot to the local fans, as along with a crucial Concacaf Champions League spot and the beloved Voyageurs Cup, bragging rights are also up for grabs between two cities whose ties dates back further than the existence of these two franchises.

And as we’ve heard from the players this week, these match-ups mean just as much to them as it does to us.

“Every time we play Toronto, they’re always different games," Montreal midfielder Samuel Piette told The Toronto Sun's Steve Buffery. It’s our direct rival and a team we don’t like. If we can win this championship, it’ll be a positive point in our season, one we didn’t get to experience last year.”

And as someone who has experience his fair share of 401 derbys, TFC captain Michael Bradley echoed Piette’s sentiments to Buffery.

“These Toronto-Montreal games, they’re special,” said Bradley. “There’s something in the air when these two teams walk out on the field. It’s not made up, it’s not commercialized."

As has been the case with all Canadian Championship games this year, you can catch all the action on OneSoccer with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. EST.

But as always, make sure you check in with Waking the Red, as we’ll have all of your game coverage this afternoon on our Live Game Thread.

With Greg Vanney holding his cards close to his chest this week thanks to an away fixture in Los Angeles on the weekend, this week’s starting XI projection becomes difficult. However, with the depth that Toronto has — and the significance players and coaches have stressed on winning the Canadian Championship — it’s possible that a combination of their starting XI and bench players in both fixtures could be enough to earn positive results.

So with that in mind, here's our Projected Starting XI against the Montreal Impact on Wednesday.

Our predicted starting eleven
Jeffrey. P Nesker/ Waking The Red