Montreal Impact thrash sorry Toronto FC in Knockout Round

Toronto FC waited nine long years to make its first MLS playoff appearance. Montréal Impact ended the experience after one miserable evening by securing a 3-0 victory at Stade Saputo in a Knockout Round tie on Thursday night.

Montréal grasped control of the game from the outset and overwhelmed TFC before halftime. Patrice Bernier justified his inclusion by registering the opener after 18 minutes. Ignacio Piatti pounced on the most glaring in a series of TFC errors to secure the second just after the half-hour, while Didier Drogba procured his 12th goal in 12 MLS appearances six minutes before halftime to settle matters.

Toronto FC improved marginally after the break, but those familiar defensive faults ultimately ruined any possibility of reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals. Montréal now faces a two-legged tie with Columbus Crew SC with the first leg ahead at Stade Saputo on Sunday.

Montréal established dominion over the match in the early stages and exposed TFC’s continued frailty in defense. Most of the menace arrived when TFC conceded possession and permitted Montréal to roam freely when playing quickly and directly into space.

Those efforts eventually yielded the opener after 18 minutes. TFC committed too many numbers forward and watched the Impact string together a series of passes out of their own half. Jackson found himself particularly culpable for his positioning at midfield as the Impact swept forward Piatti eventually provided the telling pass through the stretched TFC line to allow Impact captain Bernier to slot home.

The sequence proved a telling glimpse of the cadence to follow. TFC produced a good chance inside the opening 10 minutes for Sebastian Giovinco, but the Reds struggled to establish a firm base of operations in defense. Piatti roamed freely and spent much of his time exploring the space ceded on the left. TFC goalkeeper Chris Konopka made a couple of necessary stops, but he could not save his side from engineering its own demise after 33 minutes.

This comedy of errors captured TFC’s awful night painfully. Ahmed Kantari created the problems with a suspect square pass just outside his own penalty area. Josh Williams slipped as he attempted to collect the pass and yielded possession to Piatti instead. Piatti doled out the richly deserved punishment to double the advantage after 33 minutes.

Bernier and Drogba combined to snatch the critical third shortly before halftime. Once again, Toronto FC struggled to cope with the Impact’s movement inside its defensive third. Konopka produced a fine initial save on Bernier at the near post, but Bernier collected and spotted the unmarked Drogba at the far post. Drogba drifted past several static TFC defenders and turned home to compound TFC’s misery.

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney inserted Eriq Zavaleta for Kantari at halftime, but the move appeared far too little, far too late. Giovinco forced Bush to push away his free kick in the early stages of the second half in a rare moment of danger. TFC enjoyed enough of the ball without posing much of a threat to the organized Impact defense.

The final minutes petered out with the odd flourish — including a Piatti effort off the post in the final 10 minutes — and an air of inevitability. Montréal continued its recent resurgence under interim boss Mauro Biello to arrange a tempting two-legged tie against Crew SC, while Toronto FC returned to Ontario with its playoff duck broken and its defensive issues laid bare once again.