The Montreal Impact will take on Toronto FC Saturday at Olympic Stadium for the first time in MLS. A win is a must for both, but they also have something to prove.
And that’s all right.
If soccer is really going to grow, if Canada really wants to be qualifying for World Cups with regularity, it will need – among other things – to create a soccer culture, and nothing helps create one more than a heated rivalry.
While the Montreal Impact will be locking horns with Toronto FC for the very first time in league play on Saturday, the soccer history between Montreal and Toronto, though an intermittent one, goes back forty years.
And when it comes to soccer between the two metropolises, Montreal has been dominant. The
numbers speak for themselves.
Since 1971, Montreal and Toronto have played in the same soccer league 16 times. Of those 16 seasons, Montreal finished ahead of Toronto on 11 occasions.
Since its inception in 1993, the Montreal Impact’s record against Toronto teams in league play
(Toronto Blizzard in 1993, Toronto Rockets in 1994, Toronto Lynx 1997-2006) is 25 wins, 10 losses and 6 ties.
For obvious financial reasons, however, it was Toronto that was awarded the first Canadian
franchise in Major League Soccer in 2007. Naturally, given their team’s previous supremacy on the field, Montreal Impact fans felt angry, almost cheated, and having to sit and wait six years for their chance while the undeserving arch enemy down the 401 got a shot at playing in the big leagues would only add fuel to the fire.
That Toronto hasn’t even been close to making the playoffs in its first five seasons in MLS has only furthered the idea in the minds of the Impact faithful that Toronto don’t have the slightest clue about building a successful soccer team and that Montreal were more deserving of a franchise before them.
So when the Impact meets Toronto FC on Saturday at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, there will be a whole lot more at stake than three points. Toronto FC will want to put the Impact in its place and prove that they are the vanguards of Canadian soccer, while the Impact will want to continue its history of dominance against Toronto clubs.
The fact that both Toronto (0-3-0) and Montreal (0-3-1) have yet to win a game so far this season makes getting a win all the more vital. If the Reds lose, they’ll be haunted by fears of not making the playoffs again; if the Impact lose, they’ll be wondering when they’re ever going to get their first win.
But the debate as to which club is best will not cease with the verdict of Saturday’s game, it will be one that will ring on for many years to come. While a win is a must for both teams, whatever the result, a rivalry will have been restored for good and Canadian soccer will prevail.