East fi­nal will be worth wait for TFC

Show­down with Mon­treal is two weeks away as MLS shuts down for in­ter­na­tional break

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - LAURA ARM­STRONG SPORTS RE­PORTER

NEW YORK— A dom­i­nant 5-0 win over New York City FC on Sun­day left Toronto FC on a high, but the team will have wait more than two weeks to try to cap­i­tal­ize on that mo­men­tum in Ma­jor League Soc­cer’s Eastern Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship.

The league’s play­offs will be on hold while play­ers join their na­tional teams for in­ter­na­tional games. The Reds won’t play again un­til Nov. 22, when they play the first leg of their all-Cana­dian con­fer­ence fi­nal in Mon­treal. The Im­pact visit Toronto for the sec­ond leg eight days later.

The break doesn’t come at an ideal time, TFC coach Greg Van­ney ad­mit­ted Sun­day. Toronto striker Jozy Alti­dore and mid­fielder Michael Bradley will leave to play for the United States, while mid­fielder Ar­mando Cooper will join the Panama- nian na­tional.

“I don’t love it, just be­cause I think we’re healthy, we’re sharp,” Van­ney said. “I never re­ally love it this time of year when play­ers go away, be­cause their fo­cus goes on to some­thing, right­fully so, but some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent.”

Van­ney hopes to use the dis­rup­tion wisely, mak­ing sure his play­ers re­cover from bumps and bruises and re­main mo­ti­vated as the team ap­proaches the Mon­treal se­ries.

De­fender Drew Moor in­sists the break can’t be an ex­cuse for los­ing fo­cus, and goal­keeper Clint Ir­win ex­pects vet­er­ans like Moor and Bradley to main­tain the in­ten­sity in the locker room.

“We know what’s in front of us,” Ir­win said. “You’re two games away from play- ing in the MLS Cup fi­nal, so every game is do or die at this point. We’ll be ready for what­ever they throw at us.”

Mon­treal, the team’s big­gest ri­val, elim­i­nated TFC last sea­son in an em­bar­rass­ing first-round de­feat. The Im­pact were fifth in the East this year, eight points back of Toronto, and knocked out D.C. United and the first-place New York Red Bulls to reach the con­fer­ence fi­nal.

While Toronto en­joyed Sun­day night’s win, Bradley said the team was al­ready anx­ious to face Mon­treal.

“I think it’s go­ing to be two un­be­liev­able games, two games in in­cred­i­ble at­mos­pheres,” he said. “The his­tory, the ri­valry, the dis­like be­tween the two clubs, the two ci­ties. For me, you couldn’t write it up any bet­ter.”

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