Seldom do you see a team start a soccer match with a one goal lead. Because of the playoff format in Major League Soccer, that is going to be the case Wednesday night.
The Montreal Impact defeated Toronto FC 3-2 in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, the leaders of Toronto FC, needed to save the team’s season down the stretch. Altidore scored in the 68th minute and Bradley added another in the 73rd to keep Toronto in the game, with Montreal hanging on to a one goal advantage.
With only 90 minutes standing in between both of these teams and a trip to the MLS Cup, Leg Two should be a much more strategic event. Expect Toronto FC to come out firing on all cylinders with a raucous home crowd behind them. As a result, Montreal Impact will probably apply more of a defensive strategy, but their exceptional, offensive style of play is the motive they’re in this position.
In other words, one player could lead his team to triumph in the pivotal game of the season. Here are the leading nominees from each side that have the possibility to do precisely that.
Evan Bush, Goalie For Montreal Impact
With everything on the line Wednesday night, an exceptional game from Evan Bush should ensure Montreal a visit to the MLS Cup. Bush’s stats comprise seven clean sheets and 110 saves through the course of the 2016 season. The Impact have also not lost a match in the postseason, thanks in big part to timely saves by Bush.
Bush is accustomed to playing with a lead thanks to his high powered offense. However, with Toronto needing a goal desperately, Bush should be under fire all night.
Bush made a crucial save in the 75th minute to preserve Montreal’s advantage as Montreal’s lead was evaporating fast in the 2nd half. The Montreal Impact’s defense may also have to step up, but the pressure will mostly be on Bush to protect the net at any cost.
Goalies usually never get a chance to shine in the spotlight of a big game. With the tension at an all time high in Toronto, the crowd can be quieted by Bush if he makes some big saves and rises to the occasion.
Sebastian Giovinco, Forward For Toronto FC
Big players make big plays in big matches. The saying dates back decades, but will be more important than ever when Sebastian Giovinco takes the field for Toronto Wednesday night.
Giovinco was added at the start of last season to the Toronto FC squad, and hasn’t ceased scoring goals. By winning an impressive trio of awards last season, he acquired a great first impression. MLS Golden Boot, Rookie of the Year and league MVP all in his debut season has made Giovinco a fan favorite. He has been a key part of Toronto’s success in the playoffs.
In only two full seasons at Toronto FC, he has already become the franchise’s leading goal scorer. The first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals was shocking for Toronto fans because Giovinco uncharacteristically squandered two golden free-kick chances for Toronto and failed to score a goal.
If Toronto desires to advance to the MLS Cup, he will have to step up. Giovinco has mastered footwork with or without the ball, and can be an annoyance for opposing defenses. Expect big things from the little guy who is nicknamed, “Atomic Ant”.
Tickets are still available for an important game that is certainly setting up to be a classic in the MLS Playoffs. Eastern Conference Final Leg 2 tickets can be found right here at TheKingOfTickets.