After high of winning at home, Impact set for hostile reception in second playoff leg
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MONTREAL — The tables will be turned on the Montreal Impact in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference final.
After playing before 61,004 home fans at Olympic Stadium while winning the opening game 3-2 last week, they will face Toronto FC in the second leg Wednesday night before a packed house at BMO Field.
"Once they cross the white lines, the players are focused on what they need to do," coach Mauro Biello said this week. "We can't control how loud they're going to scream.
"We can only focus on what we're doing on the field. We have to stay focused on whatever the game is going to give us. Some players want to quiet the crowd. It could turn into a positive in terms of motivation and what we need to do well."
Toronto coach Greg Vanney and star midfielder Michael Bradley have urged their fans to be as noisy and hostile as possible to the visitors to help overcome their one-goal deficit in the two-game, aggregate goals series.
"That's good," said Impact defender Hassoun Camara. "As a footballer, it's always nice to play in this type of stadium.
"Toronto is a good team with a good stadium. We're ready for that. We'll try to focus on the task on the field and fight for our team and our city."
It may help the Impact that they have a veteran team, with nine of 11 starters aged 30 or more. Many have played big games before large, unwelcoming crowds before, including in the CONCACAF Champions League where the Impact reached the final in 2015.
"We have players who have been in big moments," said Biello. "Laurent Ciman, Nacho (Piatti), Didier (Drogba), Hernan (Bernardello) have all played at the highest level, whether it's in England or France or Argentina or wherever.
"It's about keeping calm in those moments and knowing how to manage situations. When you have that type of experience, you're able to deal with adversity."
It will be a very different experience from the first leg, which was played indoors on a hard, artificial surface. BMO Field is out in the elements, and the field is reported to be in good condition despite wear and tear from the Grey Cup game played there on Sunday.
That's fine for the Impact's Belgian defender Ciman, who said it will be "better than ours because we'll be playing on natural (grass)."
Busloads of Impact fans are set to travel to the game, while a Montreal theatre has been reserved for supporters to watch the match on a large screen.
It is likely the biggest series ever between two Canadian club teams.
"There are a lot of people behind us," said Biello, a Montreal native. "That's cool.
"People are seeing the success we've had and they want to push us and see us do well. We're proud, but we want to bring even more joy to them by winning. We have a job ahead of us. We're one step away."
The winner advances to the MLS Cup final game on Dec. 10 against the Seattle Sounders. If Montreal wins, they will travel to Seattle. If TFC wins, it will play host to the championship game.
Montreal has a history against Seattle from previous leagues, before they both made the jump to MLS. The Impact beat the Sounders 2-0 in the defunct A-League final in 2004, but Seattle knocked off Montreal in the second round of playoffs the following year.