TFC, Impact look to begin rivalry - National Post

Mark Masters
National Post

TORONTO -- An intense rivalry that will elicit the interest of fans nationally is something that has been missing during Toronto FC's two-year life in Major League Soccer.

Jim Brennan said he hopes that changes Tuesday when Canada's only MLS team plays against the Montreal Impact of the United Soccer Leagues.

"Anything you do against Montreal you want to win, especially if you're coming from Toronto and it's a big game. And there's no way I want to go up there tomorrow and lose against them," said Brennan, doing his best to light a fire under the new rivalry.

The showdown serves as the first in a series of CONCACAF Champions League qualification games that also include the USL's Vancouver Whitecaps.

The winner of a round robin between the three sides will represent Canada in the 24-team CONCACAF Champions League, which features the best North American club teams.

First-year Toronto coach John Carver said it's about time the nation's soccer fans had a real rivalry to focus on.

"I've only been here five minutes, really, and I've seen the rivalry within the hockey circles and that's huge, so why should soccer be any different? I think it's healthy for the game to have this rivalry," Carver said.

Toronto FC will need to focus on the game first and the rivalry second when they play at Montreal's new Stade Saputo. The Impact's chances at an upset have been bolstered because Toronto will be playing without a full lineup.

American Maurice Edu and Honduran Amado Guevara, key cogs in the Reds midfield, will miss the match because of duties with their national teams. Defender Tyrone Marshall will also likely miss the contest because of a hamstring injury.

Brennan, a native of Newmarket, Ont., said his team must be wary of a Montreal side looking to make a name for itself.

"We're the big club, we're the MLS team and they want to take advantage of that and beat us and knock us off our perch, so to speak. But we're not going to give them a chance to do that."

The Impact, 2-4-1, sit near the bottom of the USL standings, but coach Nick De Santis said his team will be looking to prove its worth against Canada's premier club.

"I think right now for the players, it's a measuring stick to see if they're able to play at a different level," De Santis said.