New on Sports Illustrated: Toronto FC-Impact Preview

August 28, 2020 at 05:30AM

Looking to remain the only unbeaten team in the regular season portion of Major League Soccer and extend their Canadian dominance, Toronto FC opens a home-and-home Friday night at Montreal versus the Impact.

The Reds (4-0-3) are one point back of Columbus for the Eastern Conference lead and have gotten off to a quick start in their version of the league's Phase One schedule - a six-match round-robin in which the three MLS Canadian squads face each other three times. Toronto FC completed a two-match home sweep of Vancouver last Friday with a 1-0 victory, with Richie Laryea's well-taken goal on the quarter-hour on a feed from Alejandro Pozuelo separating the sides.

Toronto FC has recorded three straight shutouts bracketing their 3-1 loss to New York City FC in the round of 16 at MLS Is Back, and its 17-match unbeaten run in the regular season (8-0-9) dating back to last year is two shy of the league's all-time standard.

"Our group is pretty mature," Vanney told TFC's official website. "We've got some really young guys who have come, many of them, through the academy and then we've got some veteran guys who have played a lot of games and played a lot of games together - there's a lot of continuity in that group. With that a lot of things click into natural gear quickly."

"Guys were motivated to play coming out of the stoppage. They were motivated to come into the season after getting to the final last year and not finishing it off. And so there's a lot of motivation at our group to be successful again this year," he added. "We've been able to pick up where we left off pretty quickly."

Lareya is second on the team with three goals, but Pozuelo has been offering a masterclass as a playmaker with seven assists on Toronto FC's 14 goal in all competitions. The Spanish midfielder has 21 assists in 42 matches since joining the club last year.

First-year Impact coach Thierry Henry will likely have to rotate a good portion of his first XI as Montreal (3-2-1) faces a quick turnaround following a 2-0 win over Vancouver on Wednesday. Romell Quioto and Lassi Lappalainen scored first-half goals for Montreal, which is looking to avenge a 4-3 defeat to TFC on July 17 during group play of MLS Is Back.

"We finished some great streaks today, including the second which started with the goalkeeper. At the end of the day, it's always good not to concede goals and score two," Henry noted. "Being at home, playing in your stadium is great. I love this stadium and our fans. There really is nothing better than having supporters.

"But the most important thing now is that we can go home and not to our room in the bubble. As a player, you come back to a certain routine and that's an immeasurable plus."

Quioto, Saphir Taider - who had two goals in the loss to TFC - and Maxi Urruti - have accounted for nine of Montreal's 10 goals in its six regular-season contests.

Stade Saputo will again have limited attendance for this match after permitting 250 fans to enter for Wednesday's contest.

Pozuelo has a goal and three assists in helping Toronto FC win the last three matches between the clubs.

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