Sunday’s match was bittersweet for a least one reason: it marked the last 401 Derby of the season. This year delivered five editions of the league’s best rivalry across all competitions.
There will be no playoff meeting between the two teams this year, however, as the Montreal Impact have long been out of the postseason picture. From a Toronto FC perspective, that might not be the worst thing.
“This is a team that every time you play them, it’s a battle,” said Greg Vanney after Sunday night’s final meeting of 2017. “They’re a veteran team, they’re a smart team and they’re very difficult to play against.”
From a league-wide view, however, the fact that Montreal and Toronto won’t meet in this year’s playoffs is a bit disappointing. After all, matches between these teams never seem to disappoint, so the more the merrier.
Evidently, not much will ever be able to match the excitement of last year’s Eastern Conference final, but this season’s derbies at least had moments that conjured up memories of that epic playoff encounter. Here is a look back at another entertaining year in the Montreal-Toronto rivalry.
June 21: Reigniting the rivalry
It was almost four full months into the 2017 season before Toronto and Montreal met for the first time. While it would be another two months before they met in MLS play, the Voyageurs Cup final provided a great platform for them to renew their rivalry.
Unsurprisingly, the hatred between the two teams picked up where it had left off. The trend of lewd banners displayed by fans during this rivalry continued with Impact supporters unveiling a ‘F--- Toronto’ tifo at Saputo Stadium.
That hostility translated onto the field, with seven yellow cards shown in the first leg alone. In total, 19 yellow cards and one red were shown in the heated battles between the two teams this season.
The match that night ended in a 1-1 draw. Mateo Mancosu scored the opener before Jozy Altidore equalized. Altidore’s equalizer was scored under controversial circumstances, as it was done while ex-Toronto full-back Daniel Lovitz was down injured.
Montreal had a great chance to take a crucial lead in the home-and-home in the second half, but Ignacio Piatti skied an effort over from the penalty spot.
June 27: TFC repeat as Canadian champions
As mentioned, it is going to take something spectacular to top last year’s Eastern Conference final. But the second leg of the Voyageurs Cup final sure brought back a lot of good memories for Toronto FC supporters.
It’s never just the goals with this rivalry, but what happens in between them. This game was highlighted by a brutal challenge by Kyle Fisher of the Impact that caused serious damage to Steven Beitashour’s pancreas, and an undeserved late red card to Patrice Bernier.
Ballou Tabla opened the scoring with an excellent curling strike in the 35th minute to put the Impact ahead on aggregate and make things interesting.
After that, it was all about Sebastian Giovinco. The Atomic Ant tied the match in the 54th minute after beating two Impact defenders in the box and then added the winner in injury time to send BMO Field into an uproar.
There is little doubt that is the loudest the stadium has ever been during a non-MLS playoff match, as Toronto FC claimed their second straight Canadian Championship.
August 27: Tears of joy
The tifo wars continued during Toronto’s first regular season meeting with the Impact on August 27. Back in Quebec, Impact supporters displayed a banner suggesting that TFC’s success was down to factors including crying and diving, portrayed with emojis.
So after Giovinco scored a magnificent free-kick in the 40th minute to open the scoring, he pretended to cry while celebrating. Altidore added to Montreal’s misery in the second half to put Toronto up 2-0.
Montreal was given momentary life late in the match when Piatti scored in injury time, but the bell at Saputo Stadium had not stopped ringing when Giovinco volleyed home to put the game to bed.
September 20: Where did that come from?
In a year otherwise dominated by Toronto FC, the Montreal Impact can at least claim one caveat: they are the only team who managed to beat the Reds at BMO Field in the regular season.
It was clear very early on in this one that it wasn’t going to be Toronto’s night. Montreal scored three times in the first 24 minutes, opening the scoring when Alex Bono fired the ball off Piatti’s backside and into his own net.
Tosaint Ricketts added a late brace to make a 5-3 Toronto loss look better than it was, but not before Anthony Jackson-Hamel walked in alone and beat Bono twice.
October 15: Allergic to goals
The final 401 Derby of the season was also easily the most forgettable, but was still entertaining in a shambolic sort of way. The score was 1-0 after 90 minutes only because both teams actively refused to score more.
At the end of the first half, Giovinco was awarded a penalty and subsequently hit the post. When he was given a retake after Maxime Crépeau was judged to have stepped off his line, he hit the exact same post.
Montreal added more than their fair share of misses as well in a match that looked like it was being contested between two teams who seasons were over. To be fair, if Toronto does play like that again their season won’t last much longer.
But TFC got the last laugh of the year as they raised the Supporters’ Shield in front of their rivals.