It was a confusing loss for Toronto FC, as despite being all over the box and in between the Montreal defenders, they could not find the charisma to actually make their way through the Impact backline, ultimately falling 1-0 in the derby rematch.
The loss is all the more dizzying for the Reds when considering how familiar they have become with victory. Regardless of how it has been done — sometimes dominantly, sometimes sleepily — TFC has not forfeited a game as of late against their countrymen. It is with this winning expectation that Toronto took to a misty pitch in their rematch against the Montreal Impact.
From the start Toronto came out with intent. Their movement was brisk, direct, and almost impatient; as a team, they seemed to lack that slight, comforting passivity that accompanies teams used to possession. TFC was pushing and creating and the Impact seemed very truly to have their heads in the fog.
It was something of an oddity, then, when at the 13th minute — on rare bit of Montreal position — a lazily defended corner kick set piece allowed a long, beautiful cross to Rudy Camacho, who was able to get a head on the ball and send it bouncing past Quentin Westberg.
The lead injected Montreal with life, and soon the hands had changed. Toronto found themselves scrambling to regain command while the Impact had found clear heads to continue with their pressure.
However, it did not last long, and after some time, TFC was be able to calm things down. By the 30th minute they had resumed their usual fare of weaving the play toward the Montreal box and taking pot shots at the Montreal keeper; though, it should be said that while their movement stayed strong, they lacked that crucial composure in front of goal to actually score. This is in large part due to the adjustments the Impact had made since their last match. Though they cannot compete with Toronto as a unit, they have stayed focused on defence, making it difficult for the Reds’ offence to get clean shots; furthermore, their midfield has applied just enough pressure to Toronto so that they cannot set up their usual siege wagon outside of the net.
Right at the end of the half things picked up. After a pair of very close chances for both teams, Jozy Altidore was given a dubious foul call after being awkwardly defended in the box by none other than Camacho. The ensuing penalty was taken by Alejandro Pozuelo — who instead of shooting — poked the ball out to let Pablo Piatti dart in and smack it into the net.
Unfortunately for the European duo, an equally dubious call found Piatti too clever and too excited and in the box too early. The result was redacted goal without a retake and a 1-0 Montreal lead to end the half.
TFC started the second half with a tangible anxiousness, while Montreal, surer than they have been recently, were taking advantage, making Toronto scramble for the ball and chase them.
However, as it goes with any team with depth, Toronto had enough time to realign the pace to something more to their liking. That being said, Montreal’s defensive line was remaining bulletproof, marking quickly and efficiently, while their offence relied on the transition to destabilize the Reds. Through 70 minutes Montreal was really settling into their groove while Toronto seemed more and more frustrated.
A special mention needs to be made for Pozuelo, who despite being furiously marked (and despite being quite furious with his own performance). seemed to be intent on scraping something intrepid together for TFC. Several beautiful balls left his feet, especially one in the 61st minute that found Altidore and nearly the back of the net as well.
Conversely, Jozy Altidore himself, while often finding good positioning, just did not have the usual flare or dynamism (or touch, hence the lack of the ball finding the back of the net) he usually possesses when at the top of his game. In addition to this, Jonathan Osorio has been weak on the finish with the ball at his feet. While Pozuelo and Piatti have been getting better game by game, for the TFC offence to work in the multifaceted way it was intended to at conception — an offence that could pick apart resilient defences — it needs every facet working.
Into the final 10 minutes both sides were looking exhausted. The Reds’ attack had devolved into lazy lobs at the general area of the Impact net, while Montreal themselves had a few transition possessions, but they quickly simmered or were stopped outright. None ended up mattering when the final whistle blew for a 1-0 Montreal victory.
While the Impact will be quite happy with their essential resourcefulness on the night, Toronto will not be pleased. Most of the game felt as though the Reds had several playmakers and no striker. While in the grand scheme of losses this is not the most meaningful (save, of course, the MLS undefeated record), Greg Vanney will be a fierce taskmaster when retooling the actual scoring portion of TFC’s offence for their upcoming game against Vancouver.