MLS Playoffs – Montreal Impact v Toronto FC Preview (22/11/16)

Montreal Impact preview

The Eastern Conference final is an historic all Canadian affair as the Impact face off with Toronto FC. The first leg will be played at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, which isn’t the usual home ground of the Impact. Due to weather concerns, this game will be played indoors in front of a sell out crowd. Over 50,000 are expected so the noise could be absolutely deafening. Montreal have played games at this stadium before, but never one of such a huge magnitude. The whole City is highly excited ahead of the contest and a ‘soccer mad’ atmosphere is being reported. Even the famous North Star Bell, which rings every time Montreal score a goal has been transported to the Olympic Stadium. Yes, that is how committed their supporters are! The Impact are a really well balanced team. They can defend strongly when required, but also possess dangerous attackers like Dominic Oduro & Ignacio Piatti. One big decision the coach will have to make is whether to stick with striker Matteo Mancosu or replace him with Didier Drogba upfront. The ex Chelsea man caused a lot of controversy a few weeks ago when he refused to play for the club, but at MLS level his extra star quality could make a massive difference.

Toronto FC preview

After employing a narrow 4-4-2 diamond formation for most of the season and enjoying variable success, it looks like TFC have hit upon their jackpot formation during the playoffs. A 3-5-2 system, which can be both offensive and defensive has worked wonders and they've dominated both Philly and New York City to make it to this phase. A complete hammering of Patrick Vieira’s men in the previous round, 7-0 on aggregate shows just how well they are playing. TFC have managed to keep a consistent XI during this period which has definitely aided their cause. Of course, their key man is Sebastian Giovinco, the best player in MLS who has some ridiculous offensive statistics this season. He leads the line with authority and is capable of winning any match on his own. Montreal will have to give him special attention, but Toronto FC still have some top talent like Jozy Altidore who can also deliver the goods. I’m not entirely sure how TFC will approach this match tactically. Often in first legs there is a more tight element to proceedings, but I think the visitors will want to pick up at least one away goal. It would set them up well for the return leg at BMO field.

Conclusion & betting analysis

The first leg of these sort of games are usually close. I have no doubt that Montreal will aim to play like they did against the Red Bulls a few weeks ago. On that occasion they won 1-0 thanks to a wonder ‘golazo’ by Matteo Mancosu. But what was the most noticeable thing about that match was how solid defensively they were. They did well to restrict one of the top offensive teams in MLS, managing to preserve a clean sheet. Whether or not they can do the same again remains to be seen. Keeping a leash on Giovinco & co is a much tougher matter. Montreal might need their offense to carry them to victory here. But that’s not a problem because the talent is certainly there in abundance. I wouldn’t be surprised if this match ended over 2.5 goals, but the second leg is likely to be more frantic so I’m going to save that pick for next week. Montreal have drifted a lot today and are now incredibly a DNB underdog here, and that is my preferred selection. Toronto would accept a tight defeat, especially if they managed to grab an away goal. The hosts might just feel they need to take an advantage with them to BMO Field next week and I think the North Star goal bell will be ringing at least one more time this season.

Prediction: 2-1

Recommended bet 1 unit: Montreal Impact DNB @ 2.02

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