Toronto needs a win vs. cagey Impact in second leg of East Final

Sebastian Giovinco chases a Montreal Impact playerDon’t expect Montreal Impact to come out firing again when they visit Toronto FC on Wednesday for the second leg of the MLS East Final. Montreal’s uncharacteristic scoring outburst in the opening leg means it can advance to the MLS Cup Final with a draw, which will allow the Impact to play the defensive counter-attacking style they displayed for much of the season.

Toronto FC are fortunate to still have a chance at reaching the Final after scoring two late away goals in last week’s 3-2 loss, but they need to score at least one more to make it happen. It doesn’t seem like much to ask from a team that scored at least once in 11 of its 14 MLS home games in 2016, but one of the three games in which Toronto failed to score was against the Impact, who seem to have Toronto FC star Sebastian Giovinco all figured out.

Giovinco hasn’t scored against Montreal since netting two in their first meeting of the season in April. Laurent Ciman and Montreal’s back line have done their best to smother Giovinco in defensive pressure and eliminate any open space around him, forcing Toronto to alter its attacking strategy. Toronto FC’s offense didn’t find any traction in the first leg until Tosaint Ricketts entered the game and Giovinco assumed more of a playmaking role, but it’s unclear whether Toronto coach Greg Vanney will return to that strategy to start Wednesday’s match or keep Ricketts on the bench.

One Toronto player the Impact didn’t have an answer for in the opening leg was Jozy Altidore, who bulled his way around Montreal’s tight defense on both of Toronto FC’s goals. Altidore has been on a tear for the second half of the season, scoring 10 goals in his final 14 regular season appearances and adding four in four playoff games, and he might be Toronto’s best hope to reach the MLS Cup.

Any overcommitment by Toronto on offense will likely be pounced on by Montreal players like Ignacio Piatti and Dominic Oduro, who thrive on counter-attacking opportunities. PIatti scored twice against Toronto in a match in October and flustered the Toronto FC defense throughout the first leg with his speed and dribbling. Montreal also has a not-so-secret weapon on the bench in the form of Didier Drogba, who will be called upon if the Impact are trailing late in the game.