|TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic punches the ball away from a Montreal Impact attacker last night. (QMI AGENCY)
MONTREAL - During its Major League Soccer campaign, Toronto FC has alternated between bad and merely unlucky.
In Wednesday’s Canadian Championship tournament opener, the club stuck to being bad, but this time, luck was in its favour for once.
The Reds never threatened the Montreal Impact, escaping Quebec with a 0-0 draw thanks to a disallowed goal and two massive stops by Milos Kocic.
The breaks have gone against Aron Winter’s club for a couple of months now, but not on this night.
The squad really had no business being in the match and clearly played for a scoreless draw late, going with five defenders.
Before leaving for Montreal, TFC’s head coach had said his team was better than the expansion Impact, but with Danny Koevermans and Nick Soolsma out due to injury, Toronto’s offence was non-existent.
Montreal completely carried the play in the opening half.
Only Kocic’s stunning stops kept the sides squared early. Toronto did not manage a shot on Donovan Ricketts through 45 minutes and, though Montreal wasn’t as effective offensively in the closing half, TFC didn’t manage a shot on a bored-out-of-his-mind Ricketts until the 80th minute.
The sparse crowd had little to get excited about. Kocic got a hand on a Lamar Neagle attempt in the 25th minute and, seconds later, Reggie Lambe headed a sure goal off of the line.
In the 35th minute, Kocic was tested again and made an even better, leaping stop. Montreal thought it had finally opened the scoring in the 66th minute when Sanna Nyassi beat Kocic, but the Gambian was ruled offside on the play.
That means Toronto can advance to the final of this competition by winning at BMO Field, likely with Koevermans and Soolsma back in the lineup.
This is the fifth edition of the Canadian Championship — TFC has hoisted the Voyageurs Cup the past three years, Montreal did it the inaugural tourney.
The second leg will go next Wednesday at BMO Field, the final the following two Wednesdays.
Last time around, TFC had advanced all the way to the semifinal of the CONCACAF Champions League after winning its third straight Canadian Championship last year.
On the bright side for the visitors, Brampton’s Doneil Henry — starting in place of Richard Eckersley — followed up a strong outing in Salt Lake with his best game as a pro.
Meanwhile, Montreal is off to a 2-5-2 start in league play, including a recent 2-0 shutout of Portland and got its other win against the Reds earlier this year.
The Reds, 0-7 in league play, will take on former captains Dwayne De Rosario, Maicon Santos and DC United at home on Saturday.