New chapter for TFC rivalry

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:58 PM ET

So, I went to the fights last night and a soccer game broke out.

OK, that’s a bit of a stretch. But, mark this down. When Montreal enters Major League Soccer in 2012, the rivalry with Toronto FC will make Reds vs. Columbus Crew look like ballet.

If Wednesday’s Nutrilite Canadian Championship opener between TFC and the pink-clad Impact was any indication of how the rivalry is growing, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment will need to tap Colton Orr to become a two-sport player. Heck, Impact coach Marc Dos Santos should hunt down Georges Laraque. He was a teen soccer prodigy in Quebec, and it always has been his favourite sport.

The first half of this TFC 2-0 win played out almost as if the teams were trying to send messages to each other. Maybe the players on both sides have realized how much easier it is to launch sliding tackles from yards away on slippy-slidy soft grass than it is on the more unforgiving fake stuff.

Thanks to injuries and cards, a whopping nine minutes of time was added onto the first half. That’s right. Nine.

They hate each other

In 2008, Montreal won the Canadian title at BMO Field, and got to parade the Voyageurs’ Cup in front of the TFC faithful. In 2009, TFC went into Montreal and embarrassed the Impact 6-1.

These two teams hate each other. And, in 2012, they will meet in the Canadian championship and in MLS play — unless something truly unforeseen happens and the Montreal’s expansion bid, which is being hailed as a sure thing by the league itself, falls apart.

And, when Montreal joins, Nelson Rodriguez, who handles discipline for Major League Soccer, will need to keep an eye on the games between the Impact and Toronto FC.

Chivas USA and the L.A. Galaxy have had some nasty card-filled match-ups in their own battle for Los Angeles, but Montreal-Toronto promises to rival them for intensity — and late tackles.

As Dwayne De Rosario scored the first-half goal, Montreal Impact keeper Matt Jordan lunged into TFC’s Ty Harden. The TFC defender hobbled back to centre, then collapsed on the pitch. He left on a cart with his right leg wrapped tight.

TFC striker Chad Barrett got into a shoving match with Impact defender Nevio Pizzolitto after Barrett brandished a high leg as the Montreal defender went to head the ball.

And Impact striker Roberto Brown was given a straight red by referee Paul Ward for cold-cocking TFC defender Nick Garcia, who was down for several minutes.

Extra penalties

Brown will be suspended for Montreal’s next NCC game against Vancouver — and the Canadian Soccer Association does review cards in its tournaments, so there is a chance there could be supplementary discipline.

The losses of Garcia and Harden, who haven’t been in the starting lineup in the past several weeks, forced coach Preki to use defender Raivis Hscanovics and O’Brian White as early subs, sabotaging his plans to give some regulars some needed rest. TFC was playing its third game in a week, and Preki had to play this game with an eye to Saturday’s game on the road, at altitude, against defending MLS champs Real Salt Lake.

Sam Cronin, back in the starting lineup for Toronto FC, did his best impression of teammate Martin Saric, who was rested for this one. Cronin made a series of nasty challenges. And he got a yellow for his trouble.

In the end, it’s still awfully tough to get a read on this Toronto team. All three of its wins have question marks attached. Both Philadelphia and Montreal were down to 10 men early. And a fatigued Seattle team benched almost half of its regular starting lineup for its game here in Toronto.

steven.sandor@sunmedia.ca


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