At Stade Saputo, it was all Impact in the early goings, as the home team dominated the first quarter of an hour and the majority of the first half. The Montreal side were rewarded for their efforts courtesy of a 17th minute golazo from their Captain Ignacio Piatti.
Perhaps the poor performance in the first 45 minutes forced head coach Greg Vanney’s hand as he brought on both Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo at halftime in an effort to get an away goal and regain momentum for TFC in the tie.
The Reds best chance of the game came in the 37th minute via a half-volley effort courtesy of Jacob Shaffelburg, which was pushed over the bar cleverly by Impact keeper Clément Diop. Ultimately, the team failed to score and head back home to BMO field for the second leg trailing 1-0. While the result is far from perfect, Greg Vanney remains confident his group can get the job done.
“We wanted a goal, but going home down 1-0 is doable. This was the first half of a 180-minute match.” Vanney told team reporters following his side’s defeat.
Former Impact and current TFC defender Laurent Ciman supported his coaches notion that although they wanted the away goal, the squad is simply looking at the loss as the halftime interval for the contest.
“It wasn’t a perfect result,” Ciman told reporters. “We just need to be ready to fight in the second half.”
Wednesday night’s loss ended a nine match unbeaten run for Toronto across all competitions. Their next MLS fixture is Saturday night on the road against Carlos Vela and LAFC. With the second leg of the Canadian Championship next week and a playoff spot looking all but secure, Vanney was asked post-game if he would rest some players for Saturday night’s match in order to stay fresh for leg two at BMO field.
“Maybe, but not entirely likely, it’s possible,” said Vanney. “But we want to stay together as a group, you know. It doesn’t mean that everybody who goes there is going to play a lot, but as a team, we’re going to stay together, we’re going to go together, [and] we’re going to come back together.”
It’s worth noting that Montreal also travel to Los Angeles on Saturday night for a battle with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his LA Galaxy side. The Impact currently find themselves outside the playoff picture, trailing the New England Revolution by three points with just three matches remaining. While Toronto have not yet mathematically booked their place in the postseason, they likely won’t be playing with the same desperation this weekend as their Canadian counterparts ahead of an all-important leg two next week.
After a raucous Saputo Stadium-crowd helped their Impact side secure a victory in leg one, Michael Bradley and co. will be looking for the TFC faithful to come out in waves to support their club in the second leg. As Bradley stated postgame, his side is confident the supporters will do their part in overturning the 1-0 deficit back home at BMO.
“Going back to BMO Field for the decisive leg, we feel good about things,” said Bradley. “We know the atmosphere will be incredible with our fans pushing us on in a big way.”
The winner of the tie between TFC and Impact will take home the 2019 Voyageurs Cup and earn a spot in the 2020 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League.