By Bill Beacon
THE CANADIAN PRESS
MONTREAL _ In the first game after their emotional run to the CONCACAF Champions League final, the Montreal Impact were just glad to get a win.
Jack McInerney scored in the 68th minute as the Impact downed Toronto FC 1-0 in the first leg of a mostly uneventful Amway Canadian Championship semifinal on Wednesday night.
They had hoped to win by a greater margin in the opener of the two-game aggregate-goals series, and they put on their top attacking players late to look for a second goal. But the Toronto defence held them off.
“It feels good just getting a result,” said McInerney, whose team lost to Mexican powerhouse Club America in the Champions League final. “We haven’t got a win in a while and it feels better.”
TFC was left confident that they can make up the one-goal deficiit and more in the second leg May 13 at newly renovated BMO Field.
“I can’t say I’m disgusted with the result,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. “We left a lot of our attacking group at home to recover. We’ve been on the road for seven games straight.”
It was the first action of this year’s Canadian Championship for both Major League Soccer squads, who are looking to grab the Voyageurs Cup and a berth in the 2016-17 Champions League.
With busy MLS schedules this month, both rested top players, with TFC choosing to leave stars Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco home to prepare for the team’s home opener Sunday against the Houston Dynamo.
Neither team was sharp in the first half, but the Impact perked up later on when coach Frank Klopas moved Dominic Oduro from the right side to partner with McInerney at forward.
It immediately produced scoring chances and finally led to a goal.
McInerney had just missed a chance when he was in alone on Chris Konopka, but a minute later he was at the far post to bang in Nigel Reo-Coker’s cross from the right side.
Looking to pad the lead, Impact coach Frank Klopas sent top midfielders Ignacio Piatti and Dilly Duka in as substitutes after 70 minutes but the TFC defence held.
“It took a little while for us to get going,” said Klopas. “It would have been great if we got a second goal, but it was good to get a win and a clean sheet and to put things behind us with a win.”
Vanney said his side was off form, partly because the players on the field hadn’t played together much.
“In terms of the performance, we were having a hard time getting out of our defensive posture a bit, in terms of securing the ball in transition,” he said. “We needed to be more available for each other, connect a few passes. I thought there was space between their defenders and midfielders.”
It was a different scene from a week ago when the Impact played at Olympic Stadium before 61,004. The announced attendance was 12,518, but Saputo Stadium was mostly empty, although much of that was due to going head to head with Game 3 of the Montreal Canadiens playoff series in Tampa Bay.
Toronto captain Michael Bradley, the best player on the field for either side until he was subbed out in the 74th minute, had his team’s best chance on a free kick from 25 yards out that was saved by a diving Eric Kronberg in the 59th.
The Impact have won the Voyageurs Cup three times, including the last two _ one fewer than TFC. Montreal beat Toronto 2-1 in last year’s final.
Notes _ TFC dressed three regulars, Michael Bradley, Nick Hagglund and Justin Morrow. . . Montreal outshot TFC 8-4 overall and 4-1 on target.