The Montreal Impact and Toronto FC both disappointed in their opening matches at the MLS is Back Tournament.
Now they look to bounce back at the expense of the other Thursday night at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in the Orlando area.
Both teams have room for improvement.
Montreal looked disjointed in a 1-0 loss to New England last Thursday, leaving coach Thierry Henry to lament’s his team’s lack of desire on the night.
Toronto conceded two late goals in a disappointing 2-2 tie with 10-man D.C. United on Monday morning, with coach Greg Vanney ruing the late collapse from his veteran team after a commanding opening 80 minutes.
With the top two teams from each of the six groups and the four best third-place finishers advancing to the knockout round of 16, both Toronto and Montreal need points.
New England, which leads Group C with three points, takes on D.C. United on Friday.
Asked where his team stands given each club in the group has played one game, Henry was brutally honest.
“Well right now, at the bottom of the group. That’s where we stand,” he told a virtual news conference Tuesday. “So we’re going to try to make sure we don’t stay there too long.”
Given the fierce rivalry between the two clubs, Henry suggested playing at a neutral site won’t dial down the occasion.
“At the end of the day it is a rivalry, whether you play it in your garden or Stade Saputo or another stadium,” he said. “That’s the one you don’t want to lose. So for me, I don’t even have to motivate the players because they already know what time it is. And I’m sure it’s the same for Toronto.”
A somewhat prickly Henry also took pains to remind reporters that his criticism of the Impact’s desire was related solely to the New England game and that he was not having a go at his players.
“I said at the end of the game that we have always been fighting. We didn’t have that on the day ... it can happen. I hope it won’t happen again. But I have been in teams, for example, where we had that some games, we were missing that. I was just stating a fact – on the day.”
The Impact will have had six days to prepare, Toronto just two.
The game was originally slated for Wednesday but was pushed back a day when Toronto’s match with D.C. United was delayed 24 hours owing to COVID-19 test issues.
One plus for Toronto is Thursday’s game is an 8 p.m. ET kickoff. Its last group game against New England marks a second unwelcome 9 a.m. start.
Results from the three group games count in the regular-season standings. Toronto comes into the contest at 1-0-2 while Montreal is 1-1-1.
On Monday, Vanney suggested Jozy Altidore may be available off the bench Thursday. The star striker was behind in his training after spending much of the lockdown at his Florida home, which necessitated a self-quarantine when he returned to Toronto.
Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio, dealing with a quad issue, may have to wait another game to see action.