If the Impact are actually serious about winning the Canadian Championship, they'll need to show a whole lot more desire against TFC in the second leg than they did in the first.
After losing 2-0 to a second string Toronto FC side in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal, the Montreal Impact’s hopes of winning the tournament and qualifying to the CONCACAF Champions league now hang by a thread.
Judging by the performance, it’s hard to believe that the club really cares all that much about this competition. Several of the Impact’s key starters weren’t in the lineup or didn’t even make the trip as they were preserved for Saturday’s MLS game against Chicago.
“[Alessandro] Nesta and [Marco] Di Vaio can’t play today and also be fresh on Saturday,” Schällibaum told reporters following the game.
Impact president Joey Saputo explained via his Twitter account that the team tried to get away with fielding an experimental lineup.
“Responding to the comments from our fans ... no one is more disappointed than I am. We gambled and lost; time to regroup,” Saputo said. “It ain't over folks.”
On the one hand, the starting eleven picked by Schällibaum was understandable given the fact that it was clear TFC wasn’t going to put out a full strength lineup of its own - Toronto has won the competition four years in a row and wants focus on improving its record in MLS. And the players that started the game at BMO Field on Wednesday for the Impact probably could have done better than they did.
But on the other hand, having known that Toronto would be fielding a second string lineup, the Impact had a great opportunity to put out a strong one and get a good result on the road so as to finish off the tie early.
At the very least, Nesta should have travelled with the team to give some of the young, inexperienced defenders like Karl Ouimette and Maxim Tissot some much needed morale support and tactical counsel.
And Marco Di Vaio could have travelled as well and started on the bench. When things went south, he could have come on in the last 20 minutes to help the Impact salvage something from the game. I don’t think Di Vaio would have had much trouble fully recovering from 20 minutes of play in time for Saturday’s game against Chicago.
A plane ride to Toronto and back during the week isn’t much of a trip. Di Vaio and Nesta have already gone on some quick excursions to Toronto in between practice sessions without breaking a sweat.
I’m not sure a 22-year-old Felipe would have had much trouble recovering from a 90-minute midweek game in time for the Chicago fixture either. And Wednesday’s game could have served as a great confidence booster for the Brazilian, who’s been far from his best so far this season. The Impact really lacked creativity against Toronto and one can’t expect defensive midfielders Calum Mallace and Collen Warner to play the roles of Felipe and Davy Arnaud and be able to attack spaces between the lines and create scoring chances or score goals themselves.
Gambling also means leaving things to chance. That’s not the way to approach a derby game in the Canadian Championship, especially when Champions League qualification is on the line.
If the Impact are going to go through to the final, they’ll need to be far less careless next Wednesday in the return leg in Montreal and they’ll need to expend far more energy than they likely ever would have needed in the first place.