Toronto and Montreal both on brink of Canadian soccer milestone

For the first time in Major League Soccer history, an all-Canadian conference final is a distinct possibility. No Canadian team has ever made it past the home-and-home conference semifinals, but Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact are both in an excellent position to do so following home wins Sunday.

Montreal began the day by defeating the New York Red Bulls 1-0, while Toronto handled New York City FC in decisive 2-0 fashion. Neither Toronto nor Montreal allowed an away goal in their respective matches, which could prove vital next Sunday for the second and decisive leg of the series in New York.

The Red Bulls controlled possession against the Impact, who focused on limiting chances and waiting for counter-attack opportunities. The plan paid off when Matteo Mancosu ran onto a long through ball and hammered a one-hop volley into the top of the net. Marco Donadel provided the through ball to set up Mancosu, and Laurent Ciman lived up to his MLS defender of the year title in shutting down the Red Bulls offense.

Toronto FC had an easier time against New York City FC, who were without midfielder Andrea Pirlo and began the match with Frank Lampard on the bench. Toronto’s style of play appeared to frustrate the New York players, who collected five yellow cards and never appeared comfortable with the ball. Jozy Altidore capitalized for Toronto in the 84th minute after some sustained pressure and substitute Tosaint Ricketts added what could be a crucial second goal in stoppage time.

The 2-0 aggregate advantage means Toronto can force New York into a position where it needs to score four with one away goal in the second leg. Sebastian Giovinco didn’t score in the first leg but he was dangerous all game and the Toronto striker would no doubt love to be the one silencing the crowd at Yankee Stadium. Pirlo will likely start if he is recovered from an apparent calf injury, but he and New York will need to figure out a way past midfielder Michael Bradley and Toronto’s staunch back line.

While this is uncharted territory for Toronto FC, Montreal was in a similar position last year, holding a 2-1 lead over Columbus only to lose on aggregate. The Impact made sure not to allow an away goal this time, and their chances in the second leg could be bolstered by the return of Didier Drogba, who has missed three games with a back injury.