Vital win on many fronts

GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

The Miracle in Montreal. A competitive sporting debacle. A sign of Canadian pride.

Take your pick, but Toronto FC's 6-1 win over the Montreal Impact on Thursday rendered a collective sigh of relief from the offices at BMO Field.

Aside from the prize money for the players for winning the Nutrilite Canadian Championship and adding another home date for the club in the CONCACAF playdowns, the victory is the first step in establishing a winning environment, regardless what game or competition is won.

Losing out, for the second year in a row, to inferior and Canadian United Soccer League competition would have left TFC with a black eye, and even more questioning of Mo Johnston and the team he assembled.

And such a story would have been written in that dark light if not for forward Dwayne De Rosario. After a start to the match at Saputo Stadium in Montreal that can be described no other way than disappointing, De-Ro led by example, playing inspired soccer with equal energy and heart, both going forward and back defensively.

DEMANDED MORE

De Rosario made up for his teammates' lack of cutting edge, demanding more, and the team followed suit. The hat-trick hero brought the kind on-field accountability that TFC has lacked.

Throughout his career, De Rosario has stepped up in big games. It's that experience and, more importantly, demeanour, that makes De-Ro worth his weight in gold.

Those same cannot be said for the display by the Impact.

Montreal had nothing tangible to gain from the game, but ended up not even saving face. The way the players and manager went about the match took away from the legitimacy of the event. You would think a team that prospered so much from the tourney last year would have given the final more respect.

The Impact made TFC's seemingly gargantuan task -- of having to win by a four-goal margin to capture the Voyageurs Cup -- a mere inevitability through lax marking, porous defensive organization, miserable touch on the ball and poor decision-making in possession.

Squad selection is one thing, with head coach Marc Dos Santos choosing to rest his players with a nationally televised USL game against the Vancouver Whitecaps less than 48 hours later. But to not dress their star player, goalkeeper Matt Jordan, was just irresponsible.

That being said, no matter what decision Dos Santos made, he was going to leave himself open to criticism. And even more than Dos Santos, his players embarrassed themselves in front of their home fans.

After the Impact's 2-1 win over Vancouver on Saturday, it's tough questioning Dos Santos' methods. But still, the tournament suffered for it.

In the future, the Canadian Soccer Association and its clubs need to do better in scheduling so this kind of conflict is avoided. Getting the Thursday and Saturday games on television obviously played a part. But, seriously, would anyone have been upset if Soccer Day in Canada came on another date, preferably when Team Canada actually was playing?

Of interest in the broadcast on Saturday was Impact owner Joey Saputo's suggestion that an MLS team could be in Montreal as soon as 2011. Saputo was adamant that he and MLS commissioner Don Garber had kissed and made up after the sketchy events that saw Montreal's slam-dunk MLS bid only months ago miss the mark.

Montreal's suggested inclusion in 2011 adds fuel to the flames of questioning the stability of Portland's accepted bid and the unknown of its new stadium plans. If Portland flops, Montreal seems like the ideal contingency plan.

STARS STAYING

Back on the Toronto front, an interesting stretch approaches for TFC with the Gold Cup set to kick off less than a fortnight away. Amado Guevara will not be playing for Honduras in that competition. Same goes for De Rosario and Canada. Holding on to its top two players is a major coup for TFC at a time many MLS teams will be without their top stars.

Marvell Wynne's prolonged absence looks like it will be extended, as the speedster has been included on the provisional U.S. Gold Cup roster.

As for Toronto's Canadian Gold Cup contingent, TFC officials and Canadian head coach Stephen Hart and his staff met weeks ago to discuss player selection. Defender Adrian Serioux would be a logical fit for Canada, but one has to wonder if his nagging injuries and the back-room dealings between TFC and Canada will keep him in Toronto. And, as yet unannounced acquisition Ali Gerba is a shoo-in for the national side after shining during World Cup qualifying.

Midfielder Kevin Harmse could be expendable for TFC while defenders Nana Attakora and Jim Brennan both seem like long shots.


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