East final will be worth wait for TFC
Showdown with Montreal is two weeks away as MLS shuts down for international break
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.”