In the same week that the famous El Clasico is to be contested in Spain, a new Clasico may have been born closer to home, just north of the border where Toronto FC beat Montreal Impact 5-2 to book a spot in next week’s MLS Cup Final.
Montreal were actually the favorites heading into Wednesday’s clash, a smashup derby of a match, with twists and turns, and goals at both ends. And indeed when Dominic Oruro opened the scoring in the 24th minute, seizing onto a through ball from Matteo Mancosu and slotting it past TFC keeper Clint Irwin, it looked as if Montreal were in the driver’s seat.
But Montreal’s lead was short-lived. Just 13 minutes later Sebastian Giovinco delivered an out-swinging corner into the Montreal box. Armando Cooper took advantage of the ensuing chaos to tuck an equalizer past Impact keeper Ethan Bush.
Jozy Altidore, who was arguably lucky to have remained on the pitch after putting in a crunching challenge on Hernan Bernardello, fired Toronto ahead on the stroke of halftime; with Giovinco again providing the assist on a corner, dropping a pinpoint ball on Altidore’s head that the USMNT striker expertly flicked through the gap between Irwin and the near post.
As the halftime whistle blew, TFC lead 2-1 with the series tied 4-4 on aggregate.
Ignacio Piatti reclaimed the Impact’s lead eight minutes into the second half, side footing a shot that seemed to almost stroll through a gap in the defense, past Irwin and over to level the score and put Montreal ahead on aggregate.
Johan Venegas came close to putting Montreal ahead a few minutes later, capping a counterattack with a left-footed shot that was kept out by TFC’s keeper.
Just two minutes later it would be TFC who would go ahead as Nick Hagglund climbed high into the air to connect a header with a ball in from Justin Morrow to make it 3-2 in favor of the hosts and level the aggregate at 5-5.
With neither team able to break the aggregate deadlock in regulation time, the match went into overtime.
Giovinco, the catalyst for so much of what went right for TFC, was withdrawn early in the first period of extra time to be replaced by Benoit Cheyrou. But while losing Giovinco is never a positive, Cheyrou proved a fortuitous substitution, heading home a cross from Steven Beitashour to make it 4-2 in the 98th minute.
Two minutes later, Tosaint Ricketts put the final nail in Montreal’s coffin, sliding onto a well-played cross from Altidore and tucking it past Bush to make it 5-2 on the night and 7-5 on aggregate.
Toronto, historically one of the worst franchises in the league, are now the first Canadian team to win a Conference final and will be the first Canadian team to host an MLS Cup Final when they welcome Seattle Sounders to BMO Field on December 10.