Montreal Impact oust Toronto FC from MLS playoffs
Montreal scores 3-0 win at home in Toronto's 1st playoff appearance
The Saputo Stadium crowd loves local product Patrice Bernier, and the Montreal Impact captain paid them back on Thursday night.
Bernier scored the opening goal, his first of the season, as the Impact posted a dominating 3-0 victory over Toronto FC in the knockout round of the Major League Soccer playoffs.
The Impact will now play host to the Columbus Crew in the opening leg of a two-game, total goals Eastern Conference semifinal on Sunday.
"It was against Toronto and it was a do-or-die game," said Bernier, of Brossard, Que. "I like to play these games.
"They don't come that often, so I just tried to do the best I could."
The first MLS playoff game between two Canadian sides became a one-sided affair when Montreal scored three times in the first half and shut down TFC the rest of the way.
Ignacio Piatti and Didier Drogba, with his 12th goal in as many MLS games, also scored.
I thought we were tentative, we were a little bit hesitant to close people down. ... We were second to loose balls. And we made some poor decisions defensively.- Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney on Thursday's playoff loss
TFC was in its first trip to the MLS playoffs in nine seasons and came up with a dud performance, rarely troubling the Montreal defence. Italian star Sebastian Giovinco had a chance early on, but was in too close to score. He then forced Evan Bush to make a diving stop on a free kick in the second half.
"First congratulations to Montreal," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. "I thought they outcompeted us, especially in the first half.
"I thought we were tentative, we were a little bit hesitant to close people down, to get tight to people. We were second to loose balls. And we made some poor decisions defensively."
Montreal coach Mauro Biello put Bernier into the lineup in the central midfield and put Piatti on the left side to help control TFC's Michael Bradley and Benoit Cheyrou and move the ball up from outside positions. It worked to perfection.
Montreal played its first home post-season game after losing a knockout-round game 3-0 in Houston in 2013.
His goal was fantastic, he's a true leader of this team.- Impact's Didier Drogba on team captain Patrice Bernier
A boisterous crowd of 18,069, including MLS commissioner Don Garber, saw Montreal come out with high energy and put TFC on their heels.
Bernier, who found new life and more playing time when Biello replaced Frank Klopas as coach in August, opened the scoring in the 18th minute on a counterattack after a Bradley turnover. Piatti sent Bernier in alone for a side foot shot past Chris Konopka.
"His goal was fantastic, he's a true leader of this team," said Drogba.
Bernier also got a standing ovation when he was subbed out for fellow Canadian Kyle Bekker in the 76th minute.
The Impact made two changes to Sunday's starting lineup, sending Bernier in for Johan Venegas and Dilly Duka for Dominic Oduro.
TFC kept the same lineup, subbing Kantari off for Eriq Zavaleta at half time.
Montreal earned home-field advantage for the knockout round with a 2-1 win over TFC on Sunday at Saputo Stadium. It gave the club third place in the conference and dropped Toronto to sixth.