MONTREAL — Matteo Mancosu and Jozy Altidore traded goals in the first half as the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC played to a 1-1 draw Wednesday night in the Canadian championship final at Saputo Stadium.
With an all-important away goal in their pocket, TFC will have the advantage going into the second leg of the two-game, total-goals series next Tuesday at BMO Field in Toronto.
The first meeting between the rivals since TFC’s overtime win in the MLS Eastern Conference final in November produced a high-paced match with both sides using most of their best players. The Impact pushed hard for the win in the second half, leaving openings on the counter attack for TFC. The result were numerous scoring chances at both ends that neither could convert.
There was little action in the carefully played opening minutes but Montreal got former women’s national team member Josee Belanger ringing the goal bell in the 19th minute.
Laurent Ciman tried a shot from distance that Clint Irwin pushed over the bar. Blerim Dzemaili played the ensuing corner kick out far to Marco Donadel, whose low shot was juggled by Irwin with Mancosu on the doorstep to head the ball in.
The crowd of 14,329 booed as Toronto equalized in the 30th minute. Montreal defender Daniel Lovitz lay on the ground injured after a pileup with Steven Beitashour but referee Silviu Petrescu let play go on as the ball was passed to the unmarked Altidore to score with a low shot from 18 yards
Lovitz, who left on a stretcher and was replaced by right-footed Hassoun Camara, was the Impact’s only left back after Ambroise Oyongo suffered a season-ending knee injury last week while on international duty for Cameroon.
The Impact wasted a glittering chance in the 54th when Ignacio Piatti shot over the bar from the spot after being taken down by Irwin. A moment later Irwin blocked a Camara header from close range.
TFC brought big guns Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez off the bench in the 62nd and Montreal responded with Ballou Tabla and Andres Romero — both teams adding attacking players rather than defenders.
While both sides fielded mainly first team players, each used a backup goalie — Irwin for TFC and Max Crepeau for Montreal.
If Toronto FC wins, they also clinch a berth in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League, but if Montreal wins it must play TFC again in August in a one-game playoff. Toronto won the Cup last year but was deprived of Champions League play because the tournament changed format.