Toronto FC wins crucial game against Montreal Impact

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) battles for the ball against Montreal Impact midfielder Saphir Taider (8) during the first half on Saturday night. Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

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Justin Morrow’s goal came just in time.

The Toronto FC full back scored in the 81st minute to lift the Reds to a well-deserved 2-1 victory over their rivals from Quebec, the Montreal Impact.

It was a match that TFC (10-10-7) dominated, only to fall behind 1-0 early in the second half. But thanks to some relentless pressure, Toronto fought back for the win and the all-important three points. The loss dropped Montreal to 10-14-4 and allowed TFC to move into seventh in the MLS Eastern Conference standings with 37 points, the last playoff position, three points ahead of the Impact and Orlando City.

“Massive three points,” said Morrow. “Just mentally, the toughness to come back out on top after going down, I can’t speak highly enough about that. It’s a big boost for everybody.”

Toronto fired 19 total shots compared to four by Montreal (5-1 on target) and held the edge in possession, 52% to 48%.

Despite the Reds getting the better chances for the entire game at BMO Field, Montreal opened the scoring in the 49th minute on a defensive break down when Bojan Krkic picked up the ball about 10 metres in front of the box and was allowed to waltz to the middle of the field and blast a right-footer that beat Toronto goal keeper Quentin Westberg just inside the post — totally deflating most of the 28,989 fans on hand.

But TFC turned up the intensity after the Krkic goal and the effort paid off in the 63rd when midfielder Marky Delgado hammered in a rebound after a Alejandro Pozuelo cross that was punched out by Montreal keeper Evan Bush. It was Delgado’s first of the season.

A couple of minutes after the tying goal, Toronto forward Jozy Altidore floated a header just over the goal. The Reds kept the pressure on throughout the second half as the Impact held on for dear life.

Morrow scored the winner when he right-footed home a shot that Bush got a piece of, but couldn’t control. It was Morrow’s first of the season. The shot came after a nice flick forward by Altidore on a pass by Michael Bradley, who was huge patrolling centre midfield all game, recording seven official chances created. The Impact seemed to have nothing left after the Morrow strike.

“I thought we stay organized the whole night, which was one of our objectives,” said TFC coach Greg Vanney. “If we’re going to get into the playoffs and make any hay in the playoffs, we’ve got to be connected as a group and we got to go.

“I also think as the game progressed, the ball started moving faster — which is what I’ve been asking for from this group,” he added. “That’s going to be the big difference. If the ball can move faster from guy to guy and we can be more mobile and play forward and hurt teams, then we’re going to create a lot of problems for teams.”

The Impact fired head coach Remi Garde after a 3-3 draw against FC Dallas last weekend, a game that saw Montreal jump into a 3-0 lead. Saturday’s match was Wilmer Cabrera’s debut as head coach. Not what he was hoping for.

The matched marked the first time the club’s new TAM players Erickson Gallardo and Nicolas Benezet started together. The pair almost connected in the seventh minute before Benezet was brought to the ground in the penalty area. Gallardo’s pace was clearly evident throughout the game as the Venezuelan created a number of chances from the right wing in the first half.

Vanney didn’t include Pozuelo in the starting XI but brought the Spanish midfield whiz in to start the second half in place of Gallardo, a move that paid off. Montreal was without its best player, winger Ignacio Piatti, who is out with an adductor injury.

“We had a phenomenal week of training. They absolutely killed it this week as a group and I think we saw the fruits of that in this game and saw some of that confidence, that connectedness, that clarity. It all kind of came through,” said Vanney. “I feel like hopefully this is a tipping point for us.

“We have a lot of moving pieces right now,” said Morrow of his club, a team that heads into the final seven games of the MLS season with a full and healthy squad — something Vanney didn’t have early part of the schedule.

“We have guys that we’re trying to fit on the field and we’re still figuring ourselves out but that’s OK because we had a good performance (Saturday) and we’ll move on from here.

“That was a real team effort and on top of being tired we all have a big headache,” added Westberg of his team’s effort. “At some point it’s tactical, it’s physical but ultimately it’s the heart you put in and how badly you want it and how much more we want it than the opponent. And tonight being a Derby makes it even more special. It’s actually more than three points tonight.”

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