TFC's Benoit Cheyrou ready for Canadian Championship clash vs. Impact
Injured star striker Giovinco remains a question mark
It didn't take midfielder Benoit Cheyrou long to recognize Toronto FC's rivalry with Montreal.
"I think when you meet fans in the city, you can feel the dislike, as you say," the French veteran said after training Tuesday. "So we know that it's very important for our fans, for their pride."
Cheyrou acknowledged he likes the city of Montreal. "But I prefer Toronto."
"They speak French there, but I prefer Toronto, the city, the atmosphere. And the fans as well."
Good answer, he was told. "Easy answer," he responded with a smile.
A healthy Cheyrou, back from suspension and a lingering quad injury that have kept him out since April 2, is a boost for Toronto as it hosts the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal.
Seba remains day-to-day
Toronto star striker Sebastian Giovinco is a question mark, however. He is listed day-to-day with an adductor injury although coach Greg Vanney admits it is hard to keep the Atomic Ant off the field.
Ottawa Fury FC hosts defending champion Vancouver in the other semifinal Wednesday. The second legs go June 8.
The Canadian winner advances to the CONCACAF Champions League whose victor earns a berth in the FIFA Club World Cup. It's a chance to play for North American clubs to play internationally and enhance reputations while filling the club coffers in the process.
Toronto has won the Canadian title four times to Montreal's three and Vancouver's one.
The Impact have been a thorn in Toronto's side in recent years.
An 84th-minute goal by former TFC player Dominic Oduro knocked TFC out of the Canadian championship last year. Toronto won the game 3-2 but Montreal advanced to the final on the away goals rule with the series tied 3-3.
Montreal rubbed salt in the wound with a pair of wins at the end of the 2015 season. A 2-1 loss in Montreal last October dropped Toronto down the standings, meaning they had to make their franchise post-season debut on the road — in Montreal, where they were drubbed 3-0.
A 2-0 league win over the Impact in April helped restore some pride. That marked the start of a six-game winless streak (0-2-4) for Montreal (5-4-4), which finally ended on the weekend with a 3-2 victory over the visiting L.A. Galaxy.
Toronto (4-5-4) is winless in four (0-2-2) in league play and has failed to score in 228 minutes.
Bradely away, Altidore injured
Toronto's two other designated players are unavailable Wednesday. Midfielder Michael Bradley is with the U.S. team at Copa America while striker Jozy Altidore (hamstring) is injured.
Midfielder Will Johnson is away with the Canadian team. Rookie forward Tsubasa Endoh is still making his way back from a leg injury.
Toronto showed a new-look lineup in practice Tuesday with Cheyrou playing holding midfielder in front of a backline of Ashtone Morgan, Nick Hagglund, Eriq Zavaleta and Steven Beitashour. Striker Jordan Hamilton was up front with a midfield of Mo Babouli, Jonathan Osorio, Marky Delgado and Jay Chapman.
Starting centre back Drew Moor is a question mark after his wife gave birth Tuesday morning. Giovinco did not train with the main team in the portion of practice open to the media.
Assuming No. 1 'keeper Clint Irwin plays and Moor doesn't, that means Toronto may field just four regular starters.
Montreal also plagued by injuries
Injuries and international absences have forced Impact coach Mauro Biello to dig into his roster.
Montreal will likely field a makeshift backline with Laurent Ciman (Belgium) and Ambroise Oyongo (Cameroon) away on international duty and Victor Cabrera and Donny Toia both injured.
Midfelders Marco Donadel and Calum Mallace are also injured. Backup Erik Kronberg will start in goal.
"To me it's a very important game," Biello said. "(Didier) Drogba will be available. The fact that we're not playing league games gives me the flexibility to use a player like Drogba.
"It's important, there's no doubt. We know what this could bring and that's our mentality going into these games."
Influential playmaker Ignacio Piatti is also available for the Impact.