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Reeling from D.C. trip, TFC travel to Montreal

Posted on 26 May 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Just three days after twice giving up the lead in a 3-2 loss in Washington, Toronto FC will visit Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo on Tuesday night to kick off the 2008 Nutrilite Canadian Championship.

In the 13th minute at RFK Stadium, Danny Dichio scored with a close-range header from Jim Brennan’s cross, grabbing a goal from TFC’s first shot on target. D.C. struck back just four minutes before the half, with Gonzalo Peralta getting on the end of Devon McTavish’s flick-on at the far post. Peralta stooped low and headed in from close range to seemingly settle things up before halftime.

Dichio had other ideas, however, and just minutes later he played a give-and-go with Amado Guevara before sending a low shot into the bottom left corner of Zach Wells’ goal to stun the home crowd.

Toronto held on in the second half until the 70th minute, when a marauding Santino Quaranta was felled by a clumsy shove in the area by Marvell Wynne. Jaime Moreno stepped up to take the resulting penalty and calmly slotted past Greg Sutton, a familiar sight for TFC fans who saw the Bolivian tie the MLS all-time scoring charts with a penalty at BMO Field last season.

Quaranta would be credited with another assist just two minutes later as D.C. finally took the lead. Quaranta, who played with D.C. earlier in his career before returning for the 2008 season, unleashed a blast from outside the area that Greg Sutton couldn’t hold onto. The ball fell to the feet of the onrushing Luciano Emilio and the 2007 Golden Boot winner wasted no time in finishing past Sutton.

Tom Soehn and the United bench erupted in a mixture of relief and excitement, while it was difficult to see Toronto getting anything from the match. Dichio’s positional play and cool finishing were not as effective when TFC had to fight a side trying to preserve a lead, with Jeff Cunningham and Jarrod Smith making late cameos to try and rescue a point.

It was not to be, and the club’s six-match unbeaten run, coupled with Sutton’s clean sheet streak, came to an end. The stadium has so far proved unwelcoming for Toronto, as the young side have yet gain a point from RFK in their history.

“They have had a good result tonight,” TFC head coach John Carver told MLSNet. “I can see them going on a run now. Tom [Soehn] is a good coach, a good manager, and [runs] a good organization. People have to be patient with him… he has too many good players for him to be at the bottom of the league.”

Carver refused to blame Sutton for the mistake. “Greg has been outstanding for our football club,” he told reporters. “He has been one of the reasons why we have so many points and have won so many games lately… take the mistake away from it, he still had a great night. I said to him as soon as the final whistle blew, ‘don’t let that worry you, it’s about us picking ourselves up. We have a great run…’ we have now got to go on another run and we have a huge game on Tuesday.”

TFC will have picked themselves up for the trip to Montreal, where they’ll play l’Impact in the first match of the inaugural Canadian Championship. Fellow United Soccer Leagues Division One side Vancouver Whitecaps will join them in the three-team round robin tournament.

Last week’s stadium opener, a regular-season USL clash between Montreal and Vancouver, ended 0-0 in a result that will not affect Canadian Championship standings. The draw means that Toronto enter Saputo knowing that the game’s opening goal will be the first in stadium history. Having conceded that honour at BMO Field to Kansas City’s Eddie Johnson last season, entering the history books at Saputo would be a welcome tonic for TFC fans.

The two sides have started the season with contrasting fortunes, as Toronto have racked up four wins while Montreal are sitting at just 7 points from six games. Don’t let their early season form fool you into thinking TFC will have it easy — the club have never won against USL opposition, having drawn or lost in pre- and post-season friendlies against the likes of Charleston Battery and Portland Timbers.

For their part, Montreal have yet to play an MLS side, having been left out of the U.S. Open Cup along with Canadian USL sides from Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton throughout the last decade.

The winner of the Canadian Championship will gain entry into the 2008-2009 CONCACAF Champions League and be awarded the Voyageurs Cup, the trophy handed to the top professional Canadian soccer franchise since 2002. Traditionally, Canadian supporters the Voyageurs used USL-1 regular season results to determine the winner, a format that has seen Montreal win all six titles to date. The Canadian Soccer Association has since been loaned the prize and will award it to the Canadian champions, a label Montreal that will be desperate to keep, especially if it means getting one over on their traditional sporting rivals in Toronto.

The motivation will be high because it’s a different championship for us,” Montreal head coach Nick De Santis told MontrealImpact.com. “There is also a pride factor for us to play an MLS team and to do so at home.”

Two former TFC players are a part of the Impact roster for 2008, with right back Adam Braz joined by Cristian Nuñez, the young midfielder who didn’t see any first team action in Toronto’s expansion season last year.

For his part, Braz was looking forward to Tuesday’s match. “It’s always special when you play your former team, but more importantly, it’s a big game for our club,” he said in an interview with the club’s website. “It’s a huge event for the Impact, and we want to represent Canada at the CONCACAF Champions League. You always want to be the best, so that should give everyone added incentive to show that we are capable to beat [TFC].”

Greg Sutton came the other way ahead of the 2007 season after protracted negotiations between TFC and the Impact but only played eight games last season before suffering a concussion at Gold Cup training with Canada. He’s since been in fine form for Toronto in 2008 and should relish the chance to notch a clean sheet against his former club.

Midfielders Maurice Edu and Amado Guevara will not travel with TFC, having been called up to national team duty this week. Edu will play with the United States in a friendly at Wembley Stadium against host side England and LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham.

With international call-ups and the upcoming spate of games in a short time, Toronto’s depth will be tested. Carver has expressed his reservations about a squad rotation system, but the likes of Cunningham and midfielders Tyler Rosenlund and Kevin Harmse will likely be called into action at some point in the coming weeks.

Following the Montreal trip, Toronto welcome a Beckham-less Galaxy to BMO Field on Saturday. Their next Canadian Championship matches come in a home-and-away series against Vancouver on Canada Day and July 8th, respectively. Toronto will close out the tournament, and hope to lift the trophy, in front of their home fans on July 22nd against Montreal.

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