Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact are all square after the first leg of the domestic final, but both teams left BMO Field with a feeling that something was lacking.
TORONTO — As the Montreal Impact left BMO Field on Wednesday night with a 1-1 draw and a crucial away goal against Toronto FC in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship, both sides felt that they could have achieved more.
"It's the tale of two different halves," Impact head coach Frank Klopas told reporters after the match. "I just felt that [Toronto's] intensity was better [in the first half], they were beating us to every ball. But the second half when we came out, it was a different team with us, a different mentality. We competed better."
TFC started out quickly and took the lead at the quarter-hour mark through a Doneil Henry headed goal, and it had looked like the home side was eager for more. Despite outshooting and generally outclassing Montreal in every facet in the first half, Toronto couldn't finish the job.
And, almost predictably, Montreal fought back to tie the game and take a small advantage in the two-legged series thanks to a highlight-reel goal from Justin Mapp.
"It was a quality finish from a quality player, in my opinion," said TFC boss Ryan Nelsen, who was full of praise for Mapp after the match. "I think Justin's been one of the best players, arguably, in [MLS] this year and last year. I've always like the player, he's a lovely man, he goes about his business quietly and it was a classy, classy goal to tell you the truth."
After heaping the superlatives on Montreal's goalscorer, Nelsen couldn't help but take a small dig at his opposition.
"It was the only way, really, that they were going to score, because they weren't going to break us down," he said. "Sometimes you have to tip your hat."
MATCH REPORT: Toronto FC 1-1 Montreal Impact
And while the admiration for Mapp's play was evident from both Klopas and Nelsen, neither coach was too impressed with the job done by referee Silviu Petrescu and his assistants on Wednesday night. Several controversial calls and non-calls were dispersed throughout the entire game, which resembled a rugby match more than a soccer game at times.
"It's embarrassing," Klopas said of the officials, whom he said missed "two clear handballs" by TFC captain Steven Caldwell inside Toronto's 18-yard box. "If you're going to have a final, at least let the players decide, not the referees making calls like this."
Nelsen also felt that his side had some calls go against it, although he said that the referee's decisions balanced themselves out over the course of the match.
"Did it hit Steven [Caldwell]'s hand? Probably yeah, but did [Montreal defender Hassoun Camara] push Alvaro Rey in the back in the first half? Of course he did, so thats one for one," Nelsen said. "Should they have had a guy sent off [for fouling TFC forward Gilberto on a near breakaway]? Yeah. He was the last man.
"You talk about bad calls, we've been on the back of a few of them this season so I'm not gonna feel too bad for Frank."
The second and deciding leg is set to be played on June 4 at Stade Saputo in Montreal, and if Wednesday night's series opener was any indication, it could be filled with even more drama.