Toronto FC and Montreal Impact star in the Canadian classic in the MLS is Back Tournament. For coach Thierry Henry it will be his first classic and surely his managers and players will have made him aware of its importance.

Toronto FC that for this season incorporated to their lines the midfielder Pedro Daniel Piatti coming from the Español de Barcelona of La Liga and who also had a step by the Valencia and the American goalkeeper Kevin Silva who will play for the Hearts of the Scottish Premiership.

Montreal Impact, who lost their debut in this tournament to New England Revolution, was looking for their first win in the classic, led by their best scorer Maximiliano Urruti, who has received praise since the arrival of his new coach.
On the other hand, Toronto FC, who in their first match let go a clear 2-0 advantage against DC United, is trying to maintain their hegemony over their opponents, who they had beaten in three of the last five matches.

In this tactical analysis, we show the offensive keys that led the Toronto FC team to unbalance their opponent’s defence and the defensive tactics employed by the two strategists to try to nullify the rival’s attack.


For this match, Toronto FC kept the same formation that is presented in the previous match 4-4-2, in the goal Quentin Westberg, the defensive line with two central defenders, Chris Mavinga and Omar González who had a step in the MX League and two lateral ones the Brazilian Auro Da Cruz and Richie Laryea. Four midfielders one line ahead, with Marky Delgado and the experienced Michael Bradley who played with his national team and had a step by the Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga, with Tsubasa Endoh and Pablo Piatti, leaving in the front of the attack Alejandro Pozuelo and the revelation of the tournament Ayomide Akinola.

For its part, the Montreal Impact that since the arrival of Thierry Henry has used the 5-4-1 formation makes an adjustment in the beginning and his team jumps onto the field with a 3-5-2 before the need to seek more accompaniment in the front of the attack. The goal continues to be of Clément Diop, having in front of him three central defenders, Luis Binks from Tottenham Hotspur, Victor Wanyama who in previous games had been placed in midfield and Jukka Raitala, on the right side Shamit Shome and left Jorge Corrales. Completing the midfield line, as a pivot coming from San Lorenzo of Argentina, Emanuel Maciel together with Saphir Taïder and Samuel Piette who has been placed by his coach in different positions within the formation. In the attack, he chose to play with the speed of the Honduran Romell Quioto and the experience of the Argentinean Maximiliano Urruti.

MLS is Back Tournament: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC - Tactical analysis tactics

In possession

Toronto FC from their own goal always tried to go out with the ball controlled by positioning their two central defenders inside the box, the two wing-backs giving the width and the drop of the defensive midfielder Bradley. With the idea of attracting the rival team to later find spaces behind the Montreal Impact midfielders line, they keep a lot of ball possession between their defensive line.

Bradley is the player who gives the ball possession meaning. By playing close to the central defenders he becomes the player who manages the pace of the game for his team.
In the image below, Bradley takes the ball close to his defensive line and looks up for Akinola’s move.

MLS is Back Tournament: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC - Tactical analysis tactics

Despite coach Henry’s idea of winning the midfield by positioning more players in that area, the Toronto FC managed to find the gaps in the defensive line to hurt them.
Piatti’s mobility and Pozuelo’s talent caused a lot of confusion in the Montreal Impact’s defensive line. Pozuelo appeared on both sides creating a partnership with Piatti behind the centre forward Akinola.

Pozuelo, playing behind Akinola, caused the three central defenders’ line to be unmarked, allowing him to receive the ball unmarked on many occasions, or to push the central defender out of his zone and allow Piatti access.

In the image below, you can see Pozuelo making an attraction movement creating a gap in the defence that is taken advantage of by Piatti to run between the central defenders leaving a position of advantage for his team.

MLS is Back Tournament: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC - Tactical analysis tactics

Piatti gives the ball back to Auro who, inside the box, observes Akinola’s movement which, due to his speed, wins the position from the central defender to only push the ball into the goal.

MLS is Back Tournament: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC - Tactical analysis tactics

Montreal Impact, had the time to control the ball in their field because the Toronto FC did not perform high pressing, waiting just ahead of midfield. However, in the first few minutes, despite having the ball in their possession, they didn’t find the space to do any damage due to the two defensive lines set up by their opponents, in addition to the lack of aggressiveness of their wings-back.

By sending two forwards onto the pitch from the start of the game, the team kept the opposing wingers in their defensive sector and created confusion among the central defenders. This can be seen in the first goal of the Montreal Impact.

In a long pass launched from the defensive sector, the pivot Maciel finds his teammate Quioto in a 1 vs 1 position, while the defenders of Toronto FC, Mavinga and Laryea are attracted by the movement to the side of Urruti.

MLS is Back Tournament: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC - Tactical analysis tactics

MLS is Back Tournament: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC - Tactical analysis tactics

Quioto with a movement of attraction and taking advantage of his speed manages to win the race to his marker staying in front of the goalkeeper and beat him with a strong shot.

Defensive precautions

For the second half, both coaches make changes but tactically the same formation is maintained by both teams.

The priority is to reduce spaces because of the five goals scored during the first 45 minutes.
Montreal Impact as we had previously mentioned in this analysis keep their wings-back closer to the central defenders, making a line of five defenders and with three midfielders ahead of them.
To better explain this, the following graph shows the area where the team recovers balls in the second half.

MLS is Back Tournament: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC - Tactical analysis tactics

This decrease in space between the lines meant that Toronto FC had fewer chances to score.
In the image below, you can see all eight players defending close to their box and maintaining short spaces between their players.

MLS is Back Tournament: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC - Tactical analysis tactics

Toronto FC, on the other hand, with the score in its favour, does not need to continue attacking and prefers also to stay back, which results in a second half with few goal options in the two goals.

In search of the goal

When the game reached the final fifteen minutes, coach Thiery Henry made a change in his tactics.

He changes to a 4-3-3, overtaking Wanyama to the midfield line playing as a pivot with Taïder and Piette leaving his defensive line with four players and in the attacking front the forwards Krkíc, Orji Okwonkwo and Anthony Jackson-Hamel.
In the following picture, you can see the new formation of the Montreal Impact.

MLS is Back Tournament: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC - Tactical analysis tactics

With the changes, the Montreal Impact team managed to gain possession of the ball and began to create gaps in the opposition’s defence.
They managed to stop the attacks of the opposing wings and consequently were able to maintain control of the ball.

This new formation allowed him to have some dangerous moves in the opponent’s area, and a clear goal option presented itself in the 82nd minute, in a combination between the three forwards. Okwonkwo controls the ball on the right side and takes it to the centre where he finds the movement of his teammate Jackson-Hamel who creates a great moves and passes the ball to Krkic who finishes off with his left foot but the ball reaches the hands of goalkeeper Westberg.

MLS is Back Tournament: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC - Tactical analysis tactics

MLS is Back Tournament: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC - Tactical analysis tactics

In the face of the need for Montreal Impact to seek a draw, Toronto FC would find more space.
And it is just one minute after the missed opportunity by Montreal Impact, that they end up resolving the match in a long pass to Akinola who wins again by speed to his marker and gets his “hat trick” in the match.
Near the end of the match, Montreal Impact scores its third goal (penalty) through Taïder.


Toronto FC takes first place in their group with their first three points, while Montreal Impact suffers another defeat. The Canadian derby is for the Toronto side, who have won four of their last six matches.
But what is alarming for the Montreal Impact team is the weakness shown in the defensive sector. Despite the importance and the work that has been dedicated to the defensive sector, Henry has not achieved the strength necessary to keep the zero in his goal. The French coach has a very difficult time of it and will have to work very hard to find the right players for his football idea.

Meanwhile, the Toronto FC team, found in Akinola for being their most important striker, scoring two goals in the previous match against DC United and now making a hat-trick in this game, appears as the revelation of the tournament and shows why it is a player who is in the sights of the team PSV Eindhoven.
Toronto FC is definitely one of the teams to win the title of this tournament.