Canada soccer notebook: TFC-Impact 401 derby gets continental spotlight

Gavin Day
Canada soccer notebook: TFC-Impact 401 derby gets continental spotlight

Canada’s top club soccer derby will be getting the North American limelight on the weekend as Toronto FC’s visit to the Montreal Impact on the penultimate weekend of MLS action will be aired on ESPN south of the border in addition to TSN2 in Canada.

In the first few years, little more than city pride was on the line but the 401 derby rivalry has ramped up and there’s much on the line this time around. Toronto still has eyes on first in the Eastern Conference after losing hold of the top spot with a recent dip in form, while the Impact is fighting for its playoff life.

“Anytime you have a derby match it’s going to have that playoff vibe especially this late in the season with everything going on in the standings,” TFC defender Steven Beitashour said after training on Wednesday. “It’s definitely going to have that vibe and we’re excited to play in it.”

A sellout crowd is expected at Stade Saputo as the rivalry between the two clubs has been taken to the next level ever since Montreal humiliated Toronto last year in the MLS wild-card game 3-0 in what was TFC’s first playoff appearance in nine years.

Montreal can’t catch Toronto in the standings but with a road visit to New England to end the season, they want to seal their playoff spot this weekend and knock the Revolution out before they have to face each other.

“It’s all about finishing strong when you’re in the conversation of the playoffs and we want to win at home and be at our best,” Impact captain Patrice Bernier told Yahoo Canada Sports. “We want to get a victory that can assure us the position in the playoffs and maybe a better position. First and foremost, we have to get that victory to get that playoff spot.”

Williams diplomatic as hometown team plays adopted team in baseball playoffs

Toronto FC defender Josh Williams will have his loyalties tested as his adopted city’s baseball team takes on the team of his youth in the American League Championship Series that starts on Friday.

Williams, who grew up in Akron, Ohio, attended Cleveland State University and played with the Cleveland Internationals in the Professional Development League, is outnumbered in the Toronto locker room that has its fair share of Canadians who will be looking to pile on should the Blue Jays get the upper hand.

“I’ve been joking that Cleveland is the hottest city in the world right now for professional sports,” Williams said after Toronto trained on Wednesday. “We’re coming off a championship (in basketball) so everyone’s feeling good and then the Browns kind of level us off there and bring us back to reality. Both teams have been rolling. It’s been fun baseball to watch. I’ll be supporting both sides. For my sake I’ll remain neutral.”

In the AL Division Series, Toronto took down the Texas Rangers, who had an unabashed supporter in the Toronto dressing room in defender Drew Moor.

Williams and fellow defender Justin Morrow are both from the Cleveland area while the team’s kit-man is from Cleveland but is himself a former Blue Jays employee.

“I was growing up when they were really good with Kenny Lofton in 1995. They were in the World Series in 1997,” he said. “I was always around Jacobs Field. It was a big time for baseball in Cleveland so I was fortunate to grow up at a good time for baseball there.”

TFC on 'locker room talk'

Whatever messed-up locker rooms Donald Trump has found himself in, they’re clearly nothing like those in the pro sports ranks.

After training on Wednesday, Toronto FC players joined the chorus of athletes that have reacted harshly to the comments made by the Republican presidential candidate that he dismissed merely as ‘locker room talk.’

“It’s almost offensive to us as athletes to paint us as people who would use those words to disrespect women like that,” said goalkeeper Clint Irwin, who said he’s already sent in his absentee ballot to Colorado for the upcoming election. “It’s just silly and I don’t hear that type of stuff.”

Irwin said he wasn’t sure if there were any Trump supporters in the TFC locker but did add that the U.S. election is a big discussion topic among the players.