Justin Mapp scored on Montreal’s only shot on net Wednesday night, as the Impact salvaged a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship.
Doneil Henry scored the lone goal for Toronto.
But the draw could be considered a victory for Montreal, since road goals carry more weight. If next Wednesday’s second leg in Montreal is a 0-0 tie, the Impact would win based on Mapp’s goal at BMO Field.
TFC is gunning to regain the title they relinquished last year to the Impact. The winner earns the right to represent Canada in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Henry leapt to head home a corner from Daniel Lovitz in the 20th minute, a blistering shot from the top of the six-yard box that Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush had little chance of stopping.
The goal was a positive — finally — for Henry, who’s been mired in negatives lately. Most recently, in Toronto’s 2-2 draw at Sporting Kansas City, a foul by the Toronto defender inside the box cost the team a Kansas City penalty shot.
Mapp tied the game in the 70th, dribbling through Toronto’s back line and beating a lunging Steven Caldwell to fire a shot past ’keeper Joe Bendik.
Toronto controlled the ball for much of a game that saw few scoring chances by either side.
Dwayne De Rosario, who is tied for the tournament’s all-time lead in goals with four and won back-to-back tournament MVP honours (2009 and ‘10), almost put Toronto up by two goals in the 58th minute when he rung a hard shot off the crossbar from about 25 yards out, drawing groans from the red-clad crowd at BMO Field. DeRosario sat on the turf in disbelief at his bad luck.
De Rosario had another great chance in the 70th, lobbing a high ball over the head of Bush, who was well out of his net. But Heath Pearce was there to head the ball off the goal-line.
De Rosario would have a third chance in the 84th minute, when Toronto was awarded a free kick just outside the 18-yard box, but he fired it high of the net.
Lovitz had perhaps the best opportunity in the first half, one-timing a rebound off a beautiful cross from Ashtone Morgan. But he launched it well over the top of the crossbar.
Toronto has won four of the six Canadian titles, claiming four in a row from 2009 to 2012. The Impact won the inaugural tournament in 2008, and again last year.
But the Impact have been struggling mightily this Major League Soccer season, looking nothing like the squad that made the playoffs last season. Montreal sits dead last in the league with one win, six losses and four draws. Toronto FC, while still living up to sky-high expectations going into this season, is 4-4-1.
Toronto, which is 7-1-3 all-time against the Impact in Canadian Championship action, defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps to make the final, while Montreal edged second-division side FC Edmonton to earn its spot.