They're led by Argentinian midfielder Ignacio Piatti, who scored 17 goals in the regular season and three in the playoffs. "To be able to be healthy again, fit and sharp, but not contributing in a more meaningful way - for a good player like me - is hard". "That's the beauty of the game, but that's also the focus and concentration we need to have in this game". Toronto FC did not play their recently established 3-5-2, and had Marky Delgado starting over Nick Hagglund, but Toronto did play Giovinco, Altidore, Bradley and Cooper. Both teams normally play on grass, so the shift to artificial turf - as well as a huge crowd - should favor the Impact, which in its history has played several league and worldwide matches at the Big O. Matteo Mancosu has been unsafe as the lone forward, and 38-year-old Ivorian star Didier Drogba will be available as a second half substitute despite his aversion for artificial turf. Inebriatti was also sanctioned for misbehaviour in Montreal in the final game of the 2015 regular season after Toronto fans lit flares and damaged Saputo Stadium. While he was held without a goal in two later meetings, he put a free kick off the crossbar and set up Tosaint Rickett's late strike to earn a 2-2 draw in Montreal on October 16.
What stands out for me with regards to the Impact was the final positioning of Hernan Barnardello playing partly in nearly a left full-back role, which allowed Ambroise Oyongo more freedom to push up on the wing.
"[This season] has been a big step forward from a year ago". Toronto FC has had good success implementing their 3-5-2 formation by allowing fullbacks Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour to play a more advancing role, although in this series Beitashour could have his hands full with Oyongo. The Impact's three central midfielders-Patrice Bernier, Hernan Bernardello, and Marco Donadel-have a combined average age of 33.3 years old, while TFC's five midfielders have a combined average age of 27.8 years old. Piatti scored both goals in their last meeting, while Giovinco was actually not involved directly in TFC goals but not from a lack of trying.
"The break wasn't great for anybody - the league, Montreal or Toronto - but it's reality", said Bradley.
This is a huge game for both of these rivals.
Montreal Impact defender Laurent Ciman chests the ball as they face the Orlando City FC during second half MLS action Wednesday, September 7, 2016 in Montreal. Drogba did not participate in the game and the Impac'ts substitutes Johan Venegas, Anthony Jackson-Hamel and Calum Mallace had little to no influence on the game. He has added four goals and three assists in three playoff games.
"Last year was just a small taste of that", said TFC coach Greg Vanney in a conference call with reporters, "and obviously that first match, which was the play-in match, we started extremely poorly in that game and paid dearly for that, but I thought it was just a taste of the rivalry that is continuing to build between these two franchises". His link-up play is excellent and as a classic finisher he gets on the end of what his teammates put together. Defenders Laurent Ciman and Ambroise Oyongo returned from worldwide duty but were recovering from jet lag, while Johan Venegas had a World Cup qualifying game Tuesday for Costa Rica against the United States, whose side includes TFC players Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.
What: The Montreal Impact will face Toronto FC in the first game of the two-leg MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Championship series. In North America, it's the opening legs of the MLS conference finals.