CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised to a 4-2 win over its Canadian rival in their Major League Soccer season opener Saturday.
The game was a matchup of new coaches with 44-year-old Wilfried Nancy in charge of Montreal and 48-year-old Chris Armas at Toronto’s helm.
Mason Toye, Romell Quioto, Victor Wanyama and Djordje Mihailovic scored for Montreal.
Mark Delgado, from the penalty spot, and Richie Laryea, with a late goal, replied for Toronto, which was second-best throughout the game.
Both Canadian teams have set up shop in Florida due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.
The temperature was 32 degrees Celsius for kickoff at DRV PNK Stadium (pronounced Drive Pink), which is home to Inter Miami CF.
Saturday’s match was officially a home game for Montreal. TFC is based in Orlando.
Montreal struck in the third minute after a stumbling Auro lost his balance and the ball near the halfway line.
Zachary Brault-Guillard drove towards the Toronto penalty box before finding Toye to his left.
With fullback Laryea up the field and centre back Omar Gonzalez unable to close, Toye curled a right-footed shot past Alex Bono from just inside the penalty box.
Toye’s goal was his first in Montreal colours after arriving in a trade with Minnesota last October.
Montreal doubled its lead with a wonder strike in the 24th minute.
Another poor touch, this time deep in the Montreal end, cost Auro with Montreal defender Joel Waterman sweeping the ball into the deserted Toronto half.
Quioto gave chase, outpaced debutant defender Luke Singh and, still at high speed, hammered a high shot past Bono at the near post from a tight angle.
Auro had a chance to redeem himself from the penalty spot late in the half. Waterman took him down as he sliced into the penalty box.
The Brazilian fullback had converted a spot kick in pre-season, but this time Clement Diop stopped his weak stop-start penalty.
Toronto got another shot when Diop, after video review, was deemed to have moved off the line early by referee Ismail Elfath.
Delgado stepped up to the penalty spot and made no mistake. He sent Diop the wrong way in the 44th minute.
Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo normally takes penalties for Toronto, but the reigning league MVP is out with a thigh injury.
Wanyama restored Montreal’s two-goal lead in the 54th.
He rose above Toronto captain Michael Bradley at the far post to head in a Mustafa Kizza corner and complete a Uganda-to-Kenya connection.
The crafty Mihailovic, who cost up to US$1 million in allocation money in a December trade with Chicago, made it 4-1 in the 71st minute.
He split Singh and Gonzalez and blasted a shot by Bono to open his Montreal account.
Laryea made it 4-2 in the 88th minute with a fine individual effort dribbling past three Montreal defenders to beat Diop from close-range.
Toronto was coming off the high of dispatching Mexico’s Club Leon 2-1 Wednesday — for a 3-2 aggregate win — in Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 play.
But the club entered the season opener with a long injury list, and was missing at least four starters.
In addition to Pozuelo, Chris Mavinga (calf), Erickson Gallardo (groin), Julian Dunn (hip) and Ifunanyachi Achara (knee) were unavailable Saturday.
Star striker Jozy Altidore (thigh) was listed as questionable and did not dress.
Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who has been dealing with a thigh issue, was suspended after kicking out at Nashville’s Alex Muyl in the playoffs last season.
Armas went with the same starting 11 he used midweek against Leon. That meant first MLS starts for 20-year-olds Singh and Noble Okello and a second for 18-year-old Ralph Priso.
Singh officially joined the first team Friday as a homegrown player, although he saw action in both games against Leon after signing short-term contracts.
Kizza and Kamal Miller joined Mihailovic in making their MLS Montreal debuts. Montreal was missing Luis Binks and Ballou Tabla,
The two teams combined for nine Canadian starters — five for Toronto and four for Montreal.
Montreal patiently moved the ball around the field, negating the Toronto press for the most part.
Montreal made Toronto pay for losing possession. When TFC had the ball, Montreal strung a line of five defenders.
Pacey winger Jacob Shaffeburg, often Toronto’s best threat, missed a chance to tie the game in the sixth minute, but his chip went just wide.
An unmarked Toye could have scored a second goal in the 17th minute, but his header off a fine Kizza cross was off-target.
Toronto’s Jordan Perruzza, a 20-year-old forward making his MLS debut, and Nick DeLeon replaced Patrick Mullins and Okello to start the second half.
Bradley fired high in the 64th minute after Laryea found him alone in front of goal. Minutes later, it was Quioto’s header off a cross from substitute Erik Hurtado that was off-target.
Six-foot-five striker Bjorn Johnsen, an American-born Norwegian international, made his Montreal debut off the bench in the 69th minute
Toronto finished second in the Eastern Conference last year with a 13-5-5 record. Montreal was ninth at 8-13-2.
NOTES: Canadian midfielder Samuel Piette captained Montreal … TFC had won five of the previous six meetings between the teams, including three of four last season.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2021