MLS Playoffs – Toronto FC v Montreal Impact Preview (30/11/16)

Toronto FC preview

It looked like Greg Vanney’s men were down and out of the first leg when they were losing 3-0. But somehow, almost out of nowhere they managed to dig deep and score a couple of away goals which now makes them favourites to progress to the MLS Cup Final. The dangling carrot is of a vast size. Should they manage to prevail in this tie then TFC would actually host the final against Seattle. All they need to do is win 1-0, 2-1, or by a bigger margin. Sounds simple, right? Well, they’ll be tested hard by a strong Montreal team who for the majority of last week engineered a well orchestrated gameplan. Vanney deserves plenty of credit for his substitutions last week, with Toussaint Rickets and Will Johnson both making a big impact. There’s a really strong case to be starting Johnson right from the off here. He adds more experience and bite to the midfield and surely deserved rewarding after his performance. TFC have a doubt in defence with Eriq Zavaleta suffering a minor injury in training, but he should suit up. There are no concerns about their three key men, Giovinco, Altidore & Michael Bradley. How that trio perform could be the decisive factor determining success or failure.

Montreal Impact preview

In some ways, the Impact are in a similar position to the previous round when they took a 1-0 lead to New York. The difference on this occasion is that they have no safety net. A 1-0 or 2-1 loss would be crippling and even a 3-2 wouldn’t necessarily give them progression. Montreal are almost in a position where they need to draw or win. Again, that sounds simplistic enough but it’ll be an extremely difficult task. I expect the visitors to approach the game how they did in New York. The aim will be to keep it as tight as possible for a while, and then wait for their opponents to open up. One thing that must be mentioned is how lucky they were in the opening 20 mins in New York though, even surviving a missed penalty. I’m sure TFC will put them under immense pressure early on, and perhaps on this occasion they won’t get away with it. Montreal do possess surprising offensive strength though and the likes of Piatti, Oduro, Mancosu or even Didier Drogba from the bench can’t be underestimated.

Conclusion & betting analysis

There are two ways this match will go. The first possibility is that it’s a tight edgy game for an hour or more, leading to a dramatic finale when Toronto go in search of the goal they need. In that instance then perhaps a 1-0 home win or a late Montreal strike on the counter is to be expected. The second alternative is that an early goal is scored at either end, leading to an end to end contest with which anything is possible. Toronto coach Greg Vanney has talked about being patient, but I have to believe TFC will come hard and Montreal early, looking to get on the front foot and gain the advantage. The hosts are a strong favourite with the bookies and on a -1 Asian handicap TFC even reach odds-on. This seems too short to me, after all Giovinco and company only actually have to win by one goal and it could be enough to see them prevail. I could see TFC prevailing, but if they got desperate then it’s possible the Impact could take advantage. Therefore, my preferred pick is over 2.75 goals. At some stage, someone is going to have to react here. The only danger is if it stays 0-0 for a long time. If a goal is scored before halftime then I could see things going really crazy and opening up. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this ended 3-2 and extra time was needed.

Prediction: 3-2

Recommended bet 1 unit: Over 2.75 goals @ 1.83