Toronto FC-Impact Preview
Sebastian Giovinco’s historic inaugural season in MLS helped Toronto FC secure its first ever playoff appearance and made him a favorite for the league’s MVP award.
Sunday night’s regular-season finale at the rival Montreal Impact still carries plenty of weight, though, as Toronto tries to keep its hopes alive for an automatic berth in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
If Toronto (15-14-4) sweeps the three-game season series with the Impact (14-13-6) and the D.C.-Columbus matchup ends in a draw, Toronto would gain the second spot in the East.
After Toronto’s four-game winning streak ended with a 2-0 home defeat to Columbus on Oct. 17, a loss to the Impact could drop it as low as sixth depending on the other Decision Day results. A rematch with Montreal in the knockout round also remains possible.
"It’s games like these that are truly meaningful that will bring out the most in the (rivalry)," coach Greg Vanney said. "When it comes down to playoff games or playoff positioning games like this, you really start to feel the rivalry come out because now they’re truly, truly meaningful. Everybody knows what’s at stake."
Giovinco’s 22 goals and 15 assists give him the highest combined total in MLS history, and he had one of each in a 3-1 win over Montreal on June 24 before Toronto won the other meeting in MLS play 2-1 on Aug. 29.
The Italian star is tied with Columbus’ Kei Kamara for the league lead in goals, and he’ll have a chance to secure the scoring title without opposition since Kamara has been suspended for the Crew’s finale because of yellow card accumulation.
"For me, he’s the MVP," said captain Michael Bradley, who along with Jozy Altidore scored in both meetings with Montreal.
The Impact also have plenty riding on this contest after beating New England 1-0 on Oct. 17 to clinch a playoff berth. A victory over Toronto guarantees Montreal of hosting its knockout-round game.
Defender Laurent Ciman will return after being suspended for last weekend’s match due to yellow card accumulation.
"The approach and mentality doesn’t change," coach Mauro Biello told the team’s official website. "It’s an important game with playoff positioning on the line, so we will prepare the same way we have all season. If you look at other teams in the league, you see how hard it is to win on the road, so having the home game is important."
Winning on the road has been especially problematic for Toronto, which is 0-5-2 away from home since July 4 after dropping its last four. This will be the club’s first road game since falling at New York City FC on Sept. 16.
The Impact are at home for the first time since Sept. 26 after ending a stretch of four straight road games. They have won their last four at home and have split four all-time meetings with Toronto in Montreal.
"This game on Sunday is like a playoff game already," captain Patrice Bernier said. "We are approaching it like we still have unfinished business."