By Arpon Basu
MONTREAL — Toronto FC's path to winning the Nutrilite Canadian Soccer Championship remains daunting, but the Montreal Impact may be making it a little easier for them.
Toronto FC needs to win the championship finale Thursday night in Montreal by a four-goal margin to claim the title from the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Impact have no chance of victory in the championship and will be playing without four of its top defenders despite having 10 days of rest in advance of the Toronto game.
"We have to keep our priorities in order," Impact head coach Marc Dos Santos said Wednesday after practice. "Our game Saturday against Vancouver is more important, some from a point of view of recuperating (after the Toronto game) we'll have to rest certain players Thursday.
"But, out of respect for our fans, the players on the field will have to play with honour and passion."
Injuries will keep key Impact defenders Adam Braz and Cedric Joqueviel out of uniform, another key defender, Zanzan, is with the Togo national team for a World Cup qualifier against Morocco, while centre-back Nevio Pizzolitto is expected to get the game off.
However, the Impact will be welcoming back centre-back Stefano Pesoli, who will play his first game of the season after completing his rehabilitation from offseason knee surgery.
The weakened Impact defence might be just what Toronto FC needs to pull off the miracle, as unlikely as it may seem.
The Whitecaps will be in the stands at Saputo Stadium to watch the game, and should Toronto FC fail to build a four-goal margin of victory they'ill accept their gold medals on the field after the game.
Toronto would love nothing more than to spoil Vancouver's party.
"We put ourselves in this situation by not scoring enough in the first couple of games," said Toronto FC interim head coach Chris Cummins. "So you'll see loads of energy coming out of us, you'll see loads of passion and we're going to have a real good go and see what happens."
While the Impact is keeping players out of action, Cummins says he has no intention of doing the same.
"Every game we play we try to put out our best 11," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's a friendly game, if it's a pre-season game or an important game like this one, we always look to out our best 11.
"It's up to those 11 to try get a result."
Cummins may be getting an offensive reinforcement for Thursday's game.
Montreal native Ali Gerba trained with the Reds for the first time Wednesday since the striker's rights were acquired from the San Jose Earthquakes last week in a deal that also brought veteran defender Nick Garcia to Toronto.
Gerba didn't have his contract renewed by English side MK Dons and some paperwork would need to be filed for him to be allowed to play with Toronto.
Cummins was evasive about Gerba's status for Thursday's game.
"This is the first time he's trained with us, but I'm not sure if all the paperwork's been done yet," Cummins said. "He's raring to go, he just wants to play for the club."
When asked if Gerba would be available to play against Montreal, Cummins smiled and told reporters to tune in Thursday.
"You never know," he said.
Thursday's game will also mark the return of Reds captain Jim Brennan after a one-game absence with an ankle injury, though Cummins wouldn't say whether the defender would start against Montreal.
"It's going to be a tough game," Brennan said. "They don't want to lose at home and we need four goals.
"We've got to get at them right from the beginning, and they obviously don't want to concede four goals, do they? So both teams have something to play for. They're out of the competition, but they've got pride to play for."
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