Reds look to crash party

TFC, Im­pact set to meet for cup af­ter playo clas­sic

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - SPORTS -

Emo­tions run deep when Toronto FC plays in Mon­treal, so per­haps it’s not sur­pris­ing that mid­fielder Jonathan Oso­rio was a lit­tle un­set­tled when he found him­self in the Im­pact dress­ing room last week.

Oso­rio was with Canada for an international friendly against Cu­ra­cao and the home side got the Mon­treal locker-room.

“It was weird for me, per­son­ally,” said Oso­rio.

The 25-year-old mid­fielder from Bramp­ton will be back at Sa­puto Sta­dium, this time in the vis­i­tors’ room, on Wed­nes­day when Toronto meets Mon­treal in the first leg of the Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship fi­nal.

Toronto is 3-8-3 all-time in Mon­treal in MLS reg­u­lar-sea­son, play­off and Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship play since the Im­pact en­tered the league in 2012.

“It’s not a place that I my­self or my team feels wel­come at all,” said Oso­rio.

“It’s a nice sta­dium,” he added. “And they def­i­nitely have fans that sup­port their team.”

But there is no love lost be­tween the two, a ri­valry that has been ratch­eted up of late thanks to the play­offs.

“I al­ways think ri­val­ries grow when­ever the im­por­tance of the games grow,” said Toronto coach Greg Van­ney, who doesn’t mind en­ter­ing hos­tile ground.

“I like that it’s a lit­tle bit un­friendly,” he added. “It be­comes you and your team, and us against them. That’s what it should be about. That’s why those ri­val­ries are so spe­cial.” In 2015, Mon­treal hu­mil­i­ated vis­it­ing Toronto 3-0 to spoil TFC’s first ever post-sea­son ap­pear­ance. That same year, the Im­pact bun­dled Toronto out of the Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship in the semi­fi­nals on the away-goals rule thanks to an 84th-minute strike by for­mer TFC for­ward Do­minic Oduro.

Toronto got its re­venge in 2016, dis­patch­ing Mon­treal 7-5 on ag­gre­gate in a wild and woolly Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nal that saw the Im­pact win 3-2 at Olympic Sta­dium be­fore Toronto ral­lied for a 5-2 vic­tory at BMO Field.

The two teams have not played since, with three reg­u­lar-sea­son games to fol­low the Cana­dian fi­nal.

“I imag­ine we’ll pick up right where we left off,” said veteran de­fender Drew Moor.

MLS-lead­ing Toronto (9-2-5) ar­rives on a roll. Since mid-July last sea­son, it is 22-7-10 in all com­pe­ti­tions — two of those losses came in play­off se­ries Toronto ul­ti­mately won while another was in the MLS Cup fi­nal that ended in a penalty shootout.

On the other side of the coin, two of the losses were to Mon­treal.

“The form right now is pretty good,” said Moor.

Toronto has hoisted the Voyageurs Cup tro­phy five times, de­feat­ing Van­cou­ver ev­ery time in the fi­nal. Mon­treal has won three times, beat­ing Toronto twice in the fi­nal.

GETTY IM­AGES FILE

Jonathan Oso­rio

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