TORONTO — Any time Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact get together, it's a hard-fought affair. Add a cup to the equation, and you get fireworks.
That's what happened on Tuesday night at BMO Field, as the two rivals squared off in the second leg of the Canadian Championship final. With the Voyageurs Cup on the line, and bragging rights hanging in the balance, the game devolved into a slugfest.
There were rough tackles, contested penalty calls, a red card, and general bad blood on both sides. And after TFC won 2-1 on the back of a Sebastian Giovinco brace (giving the team a 3-2 aggregate victory), there were literal fireworks as Canada's 150th birthday celebrations kicked off a few days early in Toronto.
But while the Reds ultimately got to raise a trophy in front of their own fans, they acknowledged that getting there was certainly no walk in the park against a fierce Impact side.
"Montreal always, when we play them, it’s always a grind. They are a veteran team, a good team, an organized team, always a difficult opposition for us in every scenario," TFC head coach Greg Vanney said. "It just seems like every time we play them the games are more and more exciting in different ways. Obviously, congratulations to them in terms of always being the competitor that they are. It took us 90-plus minutes to finally get the goal that was decisive."
Toronto captain Michael Bradley, a veteran of several high-intensity matches at both the club and international level, agreed with his coach.
"We knew that it wasn’t going to be easy," Bradley said. "This is a team that challenges us at the highest level every time we play them and they have their own way of playing, but they're very good at it."
Like last year's MLS Eastern Conference final, TFC was ultimately the winner. Unlike last year, however, Tuesday's win allowed the Reds to raise a cup at BMO Field, something that didn't follow that epic 2016 series as the club went on to lose the MLS Cup final to the Seattle Sounders in painful fashion.
"For us it’s a big night because we were able to, with this group, lift a trophy in front of our fans in Toronto which is something that is very meaningful to us," Vanney said. "Obviously with the way things went last year in the [MLS Cup] final and not being able to do so, tonight was an important moment in that way.
"We’re very proud to be the Canadian champions, that’s a big thing for us, it’s one of our goals, it’s one of our things that we can now check off."
With the Canadian Championship in hand and the accompanying CONCACAF Champions League berth that goes with it, Toronto is on the path to fulfilling a very public goal of winning every trophy available to the club. A one-point lead in the MLS Supporters' Shield race at the halfway point of the season adds another possible achievement to earn.
For the players, it all started with Tuesday's cup victory.
"We want to win trophies, we want to compete for every competition that we’re in," Bradley said. "At the end of the year we want to be the team that’s held up the best and won the most, and competed the hardest and held up the most trophies."