Toronto FC-Impact Preview
The Montreal Impact are the biggest surprise of the MLS season.
Toronto FC is coming off its own impressive performance.
After winning their first two games on the road, the Impact look to carry that momentum into their home opener Saturday when they face TFC.
Montreal (2-0-0) showed promise as an expansion team last season, but fell 11 points shy of the playoffs thanks in large part to a 2-12-3 road record.
The Impact have matched that win total already, and in stunning fashion. They opened 2013 by winning 1-0 at Seattle in front of a raucous sold-out crowd of 38,998 on March 2, then followed that up with a 2-1 victory at sold-out Portland a week later.
"I know it's not easy to play in these two places, but I think we have a team that's capable of going on the road and getting results," captain Davy Arnaud said. "Six points is huge. It's a huge achievement for us on the road."
This time, Montreal will have an expected sold-out crowd on its side at Olympic Stadium, as it attempts to show improvement against Toronto (1-1-0) after going 1-1-1 in last season's series.
The Impact beat TFC 2-1 in the only meeting at Olympic Stadium on April 7, but fell 3-0 at their regular home - Stade Saputo - on June 27.
Montreal enters this matchup with growing confidence.
"That's a big rivalry for us, and I think we just have to continue our confidence and take to the next game and take it day by day," goalkeeper Troy Perkins said.
Toronto is experiencing some rare confidence of its own after scoring twice in the opening 21 minutes and holding on to beat Sporting Kansas City 2-1 last Saturday.
Rookie coach Ryan Nelsen has been tasked with trying to change TFC's fortunes since it's been one of the biggest disappointments in MLS, failing to reach the playoffs in all six of its seasons.
"From Day 1, since the new manager has come in, there has been a certain type of way that he wants to play and we are building to that every day and we are improving," defender Darren O'Dea told the team's official website.
"We need to move forward so we don't take one step forward and two steps back," he said. "It's the first step in the right direction and we need to keep going. We now need to keep our heads down and stay grounded."
Continued production from Robert Earnshaw would also help. The Welsh forward, who joined Toronto from Cardiff City last month, had both goals against Kansas City after coming up empty on four shots - one on goal - in a season-opening 1-0 loss at Vancouver on March 2.