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I would love to see Toronto FC put out a full-strength team and go for it against the Montreal Impact tonight, because if they did they would have an excellent chance of putting one hand on the Voyageurs Cup.
Back in November at the Big O, the Reds conceded three awful goals in the first leg of the Eastern Conference final and yet still managed to come away with a result that left them with every chance of claiming the tie. That was before they had infused their midfield with Victor Vazquez’s magic and the new and improved Marky Delgado, and it would be a treat to see this bigger and better TFC take on an Impact side that has added a new key player of its own in Swiss midfielder Blerim Dzemaili.
The scheduling gods, though, will almost certainly deny us that opportunity. Toronto host the New England Revolution just 48 hours after this first leg of the Canadian Championship final, and we know that Greg Vanney is never afraid to rotate this team and use all of the resources at his disposal.
Montreal, for their part, have their lost their starting left-back for the remainder of the season and are likely to drop their first-choice goalkeeper and centre forward to meet the Canadian player quota. They do not play until Saturday night, though, which should afford Mauro Biello the opportunity to field something close to his best team.
So, what will Toronto look like? We can probably guarantee that Clint Irwin and Raheem Edwards start; Irwin has taken over Voyageurs Cup games since losing the No. 1 jersey to Alex Bono, while Edwards and Morrow have shared the left wing-back role and the youngster ticks one of TFC’s three Canadian boxes.
We can then add in Michael Bradley, who is suspended for Friday’s game. You would think at least one, and possibly both, of Marky Delgado and Victor Vazquez will be kept for Friday due to Bradley’s absence, and Jonathan Osorio and Jay Chapman are the next men in there with Armando Cooper out of favour.
The rest of the team is very difficult to call. I think the importance of this competition warrants at least one of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco starting at Stade Saputo, and as Giovinco has played his best football this season at home and is not as suitable a partner for Jordan Hamilton, I’ve gone with the American.
The defence is anyone’s guess, and will probably come down to fitness tests we are not privy to. Montreal’s main threat, of course, comes from Ignacio Piatti so I have Steven Beitashour and Eriq Zavaleta in their normal spots up against him. Jason Hernandez is probably the most reliable defender TFC have to bring in, so perhaps Drew Moor gets a break and Chris Mavinga, a gifted athlete, is challenged to get through as much of the 180 minutes coming up as he can.
That’s my guess, but it could be miles off - and Charlie Clarke has a different take in his game preview.
To get three Canadians in the lineup, Biello is likely to select Anthony Jackson-Hamel over Matteo Mancosu up front and Maxime Crepeau over Evan Bush in goal. Patrice Bernier completes the trio.
The Impact have experimented with a three-man defence of late, partially as a result of Ambroise Oyongo’s long-term injury and their lack of an obvious replacement at left-back. That would mean not starting one of Dzemaili, Piatti, Bernier or Dominic Oduro, though, and latter three have all caused TFC serious problems on more than one occasion.
If Biello does revert to 4-3-3, it could be up to Reds draft pick Daniel Lovitz to drop into the defence.
TV channel & live stream
TV: TSN 1, 3, 4 & 5 (English), RDS (French)
Stream: TSN Go
Radio: TSN 1050 (Toronto), TSN 690 (Montreal)
Toronto are only missing Nick Hagglund and Tosaint Ricketts but squad rotation can be expected as they prepare for two games in 48 hours.
Ambroise Oyongo will miss the rest of Montreal’s season and the Impact are also likely to be without Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla and Louis Beland-Goyette for this one. Chris Duvall is available after being suspended for the match against Orlando City.
Montreal: Crepeau; Duvall, Ciman, Fisher, Lovitz; Bernier, Donadel, Dzemaili; Oduro, Jackson-Hamel, Piatti.
Toronto: Irwin; Zavaleta, Hernandez, Mavinga; Beitashour, Osorio, Bradley, Chapman, Edwards; Altidore, Hamilton.