MONTREAL -- Toronto FC head coach John Carver said earlier this week that he considered last night's Canada Cup match against the Montreal Impact a 10 out of 10, in terms of importance to his side.
But it was the lower-ranked Impact that played as if the match -- the first ever between the two sides -- was of crucial importance.
The Impact, of the inferior United Soccer Leagues, gave Toronto FC, of Major League Soccer, everything they could handle and more at the brand new Stade Saputo in suburban Montreal in front of 12,083 shivering fans.
In the end, playing with a man advantage from early in the second half, Toronto FC prevailed, 1-0, on a beautiful header by Puerto Rican national team defender Marco Velez from a free kick by Laurent Robert in the 72nd minute.
But they were fortunate for the result.
The Impact is 2-4-1 in USL First Division play and has not scored a goal in its last three games. If the Impact had any finish to their game, they would have led early and often last night. They forced the action for most of the game, but time and again came up empty. The visiting side started controlling the pace of the match in the late stages as the Impact ran out of steam.
The Canada Cup is a three-team round robin tournament, featuring Toronto FC against the Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps of the USL, with the winner representing Canada at the CONCACAF Champions League event later this season.
Carver was forced to make three substitutions to his starting lineup from last Saturday's game in Washington. Midfielders Amada Guevara (Honduras) and Maurice Edu (United States) are fulfilling national team obligations while defender Tyrone Marshall is still out with a sore hamstring. Jeff Cunningham started in place of Guevara, while Kevin Harmse was in for Edu and Olivier Tebily for Marshall.