Impact opens defence of Canadian title with 1:0 win over Toronto FC

A 68th minute goal by striker Jack McInerney earned Impact the win in the first leg of the aggregate goal semifinal series.

The Montreal Impact began its Canadian title defence with a 1:0 victory over rivals Toronto FC Wednesday night, at Stade Saputo, thanks to a 68th minute goal by striker Jack McInerney, while goalkeeper Eric Kronberg earned his first shutout with the Impact, in the first leg of the aggregate goal semifinal series.

“We had a slow start to the game, but it was important for us to get the win and the clean sheet,” said head coach Frank Klopas. “After the emotional loss in Champions League, it was tough and you saw that it took us a little longer to get into the game. We tried to be smart with the rotation that we had and we were confident, but it was key to get the game under our belts.”

Nigel Reo-Coker was the architect of the Impact’s goal when, filling in at right back, he curled a cross into the six-yard box that bounced to Jack McInerney, who roofed his one-timer. The American striker notched his fourth goal in Canadian Championship play, tying him for the all-time tournament lead with Dwayne De Rosario (TFC) and Camilo (VWFC).

“We wanted to come out and bring better energy and quality after the first 45 minutes,” said McInerney. “I was lurking back post and Nigel played a good ball through, so it was an easy tap in for me. Getting the win was important because we have a lot of games coming up and we needed to set the tone.”

A bit of a choppy first half for both sides early on, with the best chance falling to TFC’s midfielder Jonathan Osorio in the 15th minute when his blast from outside the box went wide left of goal.

Over the next 30 minutes, the home side managed to get into dangerous positions near or in TFC’s 18 with four attempts at goal, but couldn’t find a really dangerous shot until Patrice Bernier played a through ball for Dominic Oduro, whose attempt missed far post.

A formation change in the second half to a more traditional 4-4-2 helped create more chances, as Oduro joined Jack Mac up top.

“Frank told us at half time that our performance wasn’t good enough in the first and we had to up our game to another level,” said Maxim Tissot. “We took Frank’s words to heart and we came out with a better second half, scoring a goal and keeping that clean sheet.”

Oduro came close again in the 50th minute when he spun around near the half circle and fired one from outside the box, this time inches wide short side.

Three minutes later, Eric Alexander played a cross into the box that was a little behind McInerney, but the striker managed to back heel it over his head and on goal, though TFC keeper Chris Konopka caught the lob.

Michael Bradley sent a free kick from 25 yards out that dipped around the wall, but Kronberg dove to his right to push the ball away in the 60th minute to preserve his shutout and first win in an Impact uniform.

The second leg of the Canadian Championship semifinals is set for BMO Field in Toronto next Wednesday, at 7:30pm EDT (TVA Sports, Sportsnet). is the new home for official Canada Soccer apparel and fanwear, including customized National Team jerseys