It wasn’t pedal to the metal, but it was enough.
With the opportunity to put a stranglehold on the Nutrilite Canadian Championship tournament, Toronto FC instead went with a conservative lineup and a risk-free approach Wednesday night at Saputo Stadium in Montreal.
Though it was not an exciting approach, TFC still managed to come away with a 1-0 victory, eliminating the Impact from the tourney.
Toronto head coach Preki, clearly looking ahead to Saturday’s tilt with the league-leading L.A. Galaxy in Los Angeles, stuck white hot striker Chad Barrett on the bench and made five other lineup changes.
Defenders Nick Garcia and Maxsim Usanov, midfielders Sam Cronin, Martin Saric and Gabe Gala, along with striker O’Brian White got the starting nod.
The Reds controlled the play, but did so without really asserting themselves on a Montreal squad missing some of its top talent in Adam Braz, Reda Agourram and Roberto Brown, all out due to suspensions.
Barrett subbed for Usanov in the second half and the difference was palpable, if short-lived. TFC looked more confident as captain Dwyane De Rosario shifted farther back to his most comfortable position. Barrett and White both came close to opening the scoring early in the second half but the torrid combo did not get a lot of time to continue its strong work, as White left the game due to injury.
Toronto did not look overly interested on knocking the Impact out of the tournament it won in 2008 in the first half. The 2009 champs, who throttled Montreal 5-1 to wrap up that tournament last year, did not bring nearly that kind of effort this time around.
Montreal was at a loss to manufacture much offence, but Toronto had trouble converting as well.
Until, that is, Toronto, which had out-shot Montreal 4-1 up to that point turned it on and struck in the 72nd minute after its best offensive surge of the night.
Midfielder Nick LaBrocca, strong again after scoring a goal against Chicago, made a looping long pass to Barrett who showed some nifty footwork, going inside and out, before getting a powerful shot on net.
De Rosario blasted in the rebound. De Rosario has been in on 11 of Toronto’s 14 goals this season. He has scored six times in MLS play and twice in NCC action.
Goaltender Stefan Frei came through with a huge save in injury time.