The beautiful game?
The Montreal Impact and Toronto FC kicked off the 2010 Nutrilite Canadian Championship in ugly fashion Wednesday at BMO Field.
In a match that featured a punch to the head, players carted or helped off the field, seven penalty cards and a stunning nine minutes of injury time added in the first half, TFC came away with a 2-0 win.
Planning ahead to the club’s matchup against defending MLS champion Real Salt Lake, TFC head coach Preki shook up his lineup.
Six new faces — Nick Garcia, Dan Gargan, Ty Harden, Sam Cronin, Gabe Gala and Jacob Peterson — were placed in the starting lineup.
The newly constructed unit showed its unfamiliarity, and Montreal was even worse.
The first half was a mostly slow, dull affair until Toronto’s Adrian Cann flubbed a kick from in close, before captain Dwayne De Rosario blasted it home in the 12th minute — his sixth goal in five games.
Montreal argued that Cann should have been called for a hand ball and the team’s consistent yapping led to several bookings later on.
Harden took the corner that led to the goal, but got injured on the play and had to be carted off after a long delay. Harden suffered a cut right to the bone but is expected to be OK.
Injuries slowed the first half’s proceedings to a crawl.
A couple minutes of soccer was constantly interrupted with a couple more of players writhing on the field.
And then, the most brutal moment of an overall uninspiring evening took place.
Montreal striker Roberto Brown leveled Toronto defender Nick Garcia with a punch to the head in front of goalie Stefan Frei, earning a red card.
The punch wasn’t incidental, it was a straight right of which Mike Tyson would have been proud.
Playing with an extra man from that point on, Toronto mostly took it easy.
Frei had to make a pair of great saves in the first half — diving to his right to turn aside a curving shot by Leonardo Di Lorenzo on the final play of the half and earlier, stopping Peter Byers from in tight after Di Lorenzo had sent him in.
Julian de Guzman and De Rosario continued their recent trend of showing good chemistry — the two are behind almost every TFC chance offensively — and even Chad Barrett got into the act.
After being foiled on a great chance, Barrett connected a few moments later, beating a defender before hammering a shot past Matt Jordan in the 61st moment.
The goal was the main positive on the night for Toronto, considering Barrett had been working hard all season but had not yet scored a goal. Preki had commended Barrett following TFC’s win over Seattle on Sunday and said he felt the goals would start coming for the forward.
O’Brian White, who subbed in for the injured Garcia, also created a decent chance.
White caught Jordan far out of his comfort zone, but a 40-yard looper sailed on top of the net ahead of a helpless Jordan.
Instead of pushing the play once it went a man up thanks to Brown’s stupidity, TFC played more conservatively.
It was probably a smart move, since Real Salt Lake looms in a few days, but it didn’t make for a pretty affair.
Toronto came in with a 3-0-1 record against the Impact in franchise history, including a 6-1 blowout last June that clinched its first Canadian championship.
The Impact will have another shot at revenge May 12 in Montreal.
Hopefully that game will feature a little more soccer and a lot less shenanigans.