Impact win but Toronto nets two away goals in first leg of Eastern Conference final

The first leg of the first-ever all-Canadian conference final in MLS history had just about everything. The Montreal Impact prevailed 3-2 at home against Toronto FC on Tuesday, carrying a slight advantage into next week’s finale but also allowing two crucial away goals, which give Toronto a fighting chance in the aggregated series.

Montreal’s Olympic Stadium nearly stole the show before the match even began. Complaints about the shoddy playing surface at the venue, which was chosen over the Impact’s normal home Stade Saputo due to cold weather, gave way to the realization that the penalty boxes painted on the field were not the correct dimensions. The start of the match was delayed by nearly an hour while the lines were repainted.

The delay and the pitch didn’t seem to bother Montreal, which led 2-0 after 12 minutes on goals by Dominic Oduro and Matteo Mancosu. Oduro caught Toronto flat-footed to open the scoring in the 10th minute and began a passing play that ended in a one-touch finish by Mancosu.

Toronto’s defense continued to buckle under pressure early in the second half, allowing Ambroise Oyongo—who entered Tuesday with one MLS goal in three seasons—to dribble unchallenged from the center line to the edge of the penalty area before scoring the Impact’s third goal in the 53rd minute.

Tosaint Ricketts entered the game for Toronto FC shortly after Oyongo’s goal and his presence made an immediate impact on offense. Toronto began applying more pressure and mounting attacks around Montreal’s penalty area and the effort paid off in the 68th minute when Jozy Altidore headed the ball in, ending a frantic sequence that included a ball off the post by Ricketts. Michael Bradley brought Toronto within one goal five minutes later with a shot off a pass from Ricketts.

Impact players were furious after Toronto’s second goal as Altidore appeared to foul a Montreal defender in order to win the ball in the penalty area and send it to Ricketts. The game got noticeably more chippy after that, but referee Juan Guzman kept his cards in his pockets. Montreal only needs a draw in the second leg at BMO Field on Wednesday, Nov. 30 to advance to the MLS Cup final, while Toronto FC’s easiest path is a 1-0 or 2-1 victory. No Canadian team has ever won the MLS Cup.