Montreal squad key to CONCACAF spot
BY RANDY PHILLIPS
Toronto FC must beat the Montreal Impact by four goals today to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League or hand that shot to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
It's a long shot, at best, and one the Impact say they have no intention of allowing.
"We don't want anybody to come into our stadium and beat us by four goals in front of our fans and celebrate on our field," Impact midfielder Sandro Grande said. "This is about gaining respect, and the only way we're going to do that is by winning."
The Impact play host to TFC in the final game of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship at Saputo Stadium. The Impact, which won last season's three team round-robin championship before making it all the way to the Champions League quarter-finals, have been eliminated this season, but Toronto will be trying to win a tiebreaking scenario with the Whitecaps.
The Whitecaps (3-1-0) are first in the championship standings with nine points and have a four-goal advantage after completing their four-game schedule. If TFC (2-1-0) wins by four goals, they would tie Vancouver in points, but also would have scored a greater number of goals in the championship.
Some might call it a meaningless game for the Impact (0-3), which lost 1-0 to Toronto and 2-0 and 1-0 to the Whitecaps. However, head coach Marc Dos Santos says it is anything but.
"It's a question of honour," Dos Santos said. "Pride also. We're very, very professional in our approach, and being professional for sure we're going into the game against Toronto with the attitude of winning. Doing the best result possible."
The Impact have surrendered four or more goals in a game only five times in the 16-year history of the franchise, including a 5-2 loss to Mexico's Santos Laguna in last season's Champions League quarter-finals. Montreal has only lost twice by at least four goals, and it hasn't happened since July 2002.
Toronto, which plays in Major League Soccer, has only won once by a four-goal margin, defeating FC Dallas 4-0 in June 2007.
"It is doable," TFC head coach Chris Cummins told MLSnet.com. "We know it's a tough task, but we're going to split the game into four quarters, and we've got to score one goal every 22 minutes. It's not a case of going gung-ho early, attacking and attacking. We'll manage the game to the best we can, and if we don't score in the first 15-20 minutes, we're not going to panic."
Thursday's game will be followed by the Impact's return to regular-season play less than 36 hours later in the United Soccer League First Division. The Whitecaps will be the visitors at Saputo Stadium on Saturday that will be part of Soccer Day in Canada -- the game will be televised live across the country on CBC.
"We're intelligent enough to know that we're out of the Nutrilite championship, but still very much in it in the USL," Dos Santos said. "So if I have to give an order of importance, Vancouver is much more important than Toronto, but that doesn't mean our approach against Toronto will be bad."
The Impact have won three of its last four league games.
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