MATCH ANALYSIS: CF Montréal beat Toronto FC with pair of first half goals, advance to CanChamp semis

Final Score: Toronto FC 1-2 CF Montréal
Goalscorers: Insigne 44′; Brault-Guillard 35′, Offor 39′
2023 Canadian Championship

Match in a minute or less

CF Montréal secured their spot in the Canadian Championship semifinals on Tuesday evening, defeating bitter rivals Toronto FC 2-1 at BMO Field. Two goals in four minutes in the first half was enough for Montréal to hold onto, as they knocked Toronto FC out of the competition at the earliest stage in the Reds’ existence.

The visitors took the lead in the 35th minute, with Zachary Brault-Guillard putting the ball into the back of the net from a quick counter-attack. After a Federico Bernardeschi free kick was sent into the wall at the other end of the pitch, Montréal quickly won the ball back and charged the other way. Sean Rea lobbed a pass over the TFC backline to Romell Quioto, whose initial effort was stopped by Sean Johnson before Brault-Guillard was there to slot it home.

Montréal doubled their lead four minutes later, again taking advantage of an efficient move up the pitch. Lassi Lappalainen held onto the ball along the left touchline, before playing it forward to Mathieu Choinière, who curled a brilliant cross into the six-yard box with his first touch. There it met the diving Chinonso Offor, whose header went through the legs of Johnson to double his side’s lead on the road.

Toronto responded right at the end of the half, with Lorenzo Insigne redirecting a low cross from Richie Laryea into the back of the net from a couple of yards out to cut Montréal’s lead in half. Moments after the interval, the Reds shouted for a penalty after Joel Waterman dragged down CJ Sapong in front of goal, but referee Yusri Rudolf was having none of it.

The home side pushed for an equalizer in the second half, but it would never come as Montréal held down the fort. The Quebecois side will move onto the semifinals of the competition, where they will take on Canadian Premier League champions Forge FC for the third season in a row after the Hammers beat Atlético Ottawa on penalties on Tuesday night.

Three Observations

Montréal counter-attacks lead to two goals in quick succession

Both of Montréal’s goals on Tuesday night came in the span of four minutes, and were both goals that were preventable from Toronto FC. They both came on counter-attacks from players that have established themselves as being very good when they have room to run with the ball — Sean Rea and Mathieu Choinière in midfield, with Lassi Lappalainen and Zachary Brault-Guillard at the two fullback spots.

The first goal, scored by Brault-Guillard, came just seconds after Toronto had a free kick at the other end of the pitch. Federico Bernardeschi’s shot hit the wall protecting Jonathan Sirois’ net, and the visitors immediately charged the other way up the field. After an initial pass out of the back found Rea, he lobbed the ball forward to Romell Quioto for a breakaway

The Honduran attacker had the ball knocked away from him by TFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson, but it fell to Brault-Guillard, who was able to give his team the lead with a calm finish.

The lead was doubled just four minutes later, as Chinonso Offor scored what would end up being the winning goal. Lassi Lappalainen picked up the ball along the left touchline and took a few touches down the line before playing a pass in behind the Toronto FC backline for Mathieu Choinière. He curled in a perfect cross with his first touch, right onto the head of Offor, whose diving effort went right through Johnson’s legs from close range.

They should have had a third just moments later, but Romell Quioto couldn’t keep his uncontested shot down after Offor did well to keep the ball in play and centre it to his teammate.

After the break Montréal was able to sit back and defend, doing everything they needed to do to prevent Toronto from finding an equalizer.

“The mindset was coming to Toronto to win, to go to the next stage,” said Montréal head coach Hernán Losada, who celebrated his 41st birthday with a crucial victory. “Sometimes the game itself pushes you to play a different way due to circumstances. There were moments that we needed to sit back a little more and stay compact and try to [take advantage] of the counter-attacks, but that was not the initial plan.

Losada said that the team used the possession his side did have effectively, making good vertical runs to get the ball up the pitch and away from their goal very quickly. The best example of that was on the first goal, where several of his players immediately shot up the pitch with no hesitation.

He added that he was happy that when the team was forced to sit deeper in their own half, that they didn’t sit too deep and put Jonathan Sirois in any huge amount of danger.

Laryea continues good form at right back, laments first half goals

For both club and country, Richie Laryea has become a fixture at right back – establishing himself as a player capable of winning games on his own. While Toronto FC didn’t come away victorious, it was clear again in this match that Laryea – who is on loan from English Premier League club Nottingham Forest – is one of the focal points.

Many of the Toronto attacks on Tuesday night went down the right wing through the Canadian international and Federico Bernardeschi, with Laryea making overlapping runs and charging toward the Montréal penalty area when possible. Laryea has shown an ability to be versatile in attack in a Toronto team that sometimes lacks that, able to whip in crosses or his seemingly prefered method of running at goal with the ball at his feet.

The link up between those two players has been effective all season for TFC — and the Reds should be quite worried about the fact that Laryea’s loan ends at the end of June. They are presumably looking to extend his return to Toronto after he never really broke into the Forest starting eleven.

Toronto FC’s Richie Laryea plays the ball in a Canadian Championship match against CF Montreal. (Photo: Toronto FC/ Lucas Kschischang)

The TFC right back played a crucial role in Toronto’s goal, making a run in behind the Montréal defenders to receive a pass from Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, before playing a low pass across the six yard box for Lorenzo Insigne to easily pass into the back of the net. There were shouts for offside as the defenders claimed Insigne was behind the last defender, but the goal stood.

Laryea also danced between several defenders in the 60th minute of the match to set up a wonderful scoring opportunity for CJ Sapong, but the new Toronto signing hesitated a bit, and the ball would be cleared away from danger.

Laryea has also never been afraid to use his physicality to his advantage – and never backs down from the extracurriculars, as evidenced by a couple of occasions where he came together with Romell Quioto. That passion continued into his postgame press conference as well, with Laryea saying that his side dug themselves into a hole in the first half with “two really f***ing sh*tty goals.”

“We come back and do well to get one back… it’s not enough,” he added. “We pushed hard in the second half, but when you’re down two goals and they start sitting deep, it’s difficult. I think it’s a good response, but obviously not enough.”

Absence of Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio felt in TFC midfield

As is often the case when the longtime Toronto FC captain isn’t on the pitch, Michael Bradley’s absence was felt throughout this match. There were times — when Montréal scored their two goals in quick succession, for example — in which Toronto really lacked a veteran presence, and a midfield general to provide some extra cover in front of the backline.

The Reds weren’t helped by the fact that they were forced to make a change in midfield in just the 21st minute. Alonso Coello, who started at the base of midfield, was forced off the pitch with what appeared to be an ankle injury, replaced by Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty. Mark-Anthony Kaye and Brandon Servania also started in the middle of the park for the Reds, although neither player had a huge impact on how the match played out.

Marshall-Rutty, as the interest he’s had from top clubs in Europe suggests, is a very talented player, but is better used out wide than in the central midfield role he was asked to play after coming off the bench. His best moment in midfield came on TFC’s goal at the end of the first half, when he forced his way through a couple of defenders before setting up Richie Laryea’s assist.

In the second half, head coach Bob Bradley moved Marshall-Rutty to left back in place of Kobe Franklin, who was taken off for Deandre Kerr. Kerr provided a spark off the bench, slotting in as a number ten/second striker in support of Sapong. While Kerr did create a couple of chances off the bench — actually leading the team in touches in the opposition box, despite only playing for half an hour — Toronto FC left a lot to be desired when it came to getting attacking output from their central midfielders.

Almost every TFC attack went through Lorenzo Insigne or Federico Bernardeschi in the wide areas, with the fullbacks sometimes overlapping to try and get the ball into the box. They often lacked variety, and the Montréal defenders picked up what they were trying to do quite early in the match and never really budged. Jonathan Osorio, who like Michael Bradley missed out due to a lower body injury, would have helped in that regard.

Overall for Toronto FC, they were largely predictable in attack and let down at times by a lack of leadership at the base of midfield and in front of their backline. A lot of passes went backwards or laterally, and the team lacked bravery in a match that saw them dumped out of the Canadian Championship at the earliest stage they’ve ever been knocked out it. Player of the Match

Mathieu Choinière , CF Montréal

CF Montréal midfielder Mathieu Choinière was a force to be reckoned with in the centre of the park, causing all kinds of trouble for his Torontonian counterparts. It was his inch-perfect cross in the first half that set up the winning goal as well in what was another sharp performance from the Canadian.

What’s next?

These two teams meet again in Montréal on Saturday in Major League Soccer action. Montréal moves onto the semifinals of the Canadian Championship, and will take on Canadian Premier League side Forge FC for the third season in a row.

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