2019 MLS Week 19 Preview — Montreal Impact (9-3-9) vs. Toronto FC (6-5-8)

New-look Toronto FC looks to get an immediate dividend on their player moves heading into their Canadian grudge match at Montreal on Saturday.

The Reds (6-5-8) are one of four teams jockeying for the seventh and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With the secondary transfer window open, they have been aggressive in trying to fill areas of weakness and feel they have addressed two such areas with the signings of defender Omar Gonzalez and winger Erickson Gallardo.

While the Gonzalez signing was completed in June, the center back was with the United States at the Gold Cup. The 30-year-old played in two of the six matches and will try to help shore up a TFC backline that has conceded 33 goals.

“Omar has the ability to help improve our aerial game,” TFC general manager Ali Curtis said Wednesday about the 6-foot-5 Gonzalez, who could prove beneficial on corner kicks offensively. “(Size) is an added benefit, not all the tools he has available to him. He’s competitive, he’s a fighter, has experience, tactically, technically. He enjoys defending.”

The 22-year-old Gallardo could be available for this match if his paperwork is completed, with coach Greg Vanney expected to find a spot for him on the right flank. Gallardo, who played for Zamora FC in his native Venezuela, recently notched his first international cap and looks to follow compatriots Josef Martinez and Jefferson Savarino as impact players in MLS.

“Dynamic, quick, aggressive in the attack, trying to get in behind,” Vanney said after watching Gallardo at his first practice. “He’s going through that process of feeling everything out, getting to know his teammates and the language. He looks good, scored a great goal today. The thing is going to be how quickly he can adapt to new surroundings, new team, new style, new league.”

Toronto FC also will be at full strength for the first time since the start of the season. Vanney welcomes back four regulars – Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, and Ashtone Morgan – from Gold Cup commitments, and the gaffer is hoping that core along with Gallardo and left wing Jacob Shaffelburg will help create more chances for playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo.

Montreal (9-3-9) is fourth in the East on 30 points, but every side around the Impact except for conference-leading Philadelphia have at least one match in hand. The Impact are coming off a 2-2 draw Wednesday at York9 FC in the first leg of their third-round Canadian Cup tie, with the Impact pulling even when Saphir Taider converted a stoppage-time penalty after Maxi Urruti was fouled.

Omar Browne scored the other goal for Montreal in the 62nd minute, giving the Impact a lead before the hosts struck twice in a five-minute span late. The Impact, though, are in good shape to advance with the two away goals and being hosts for the second leg.

“We were too soft at times,” Impact coach Rémi Garde lamented to the team’s official website. “I think York’s first goal is similar to the ones we’ve conceded lately, which is a nuisance. This game had a lot of ups and downs, and with a little more technical finesse in our game in the second half, we would’ve created more chances to take an even bigger lead. We had the opportunity to push this game in our favor.”

The home team has won the last four matches in this series, with the Impact recording 1-0 and 2-0 wins at Stade Saputo last year. Ignacio Piatti, who has been limited to five matches this year due to knee injuries, scored both goals in the latter win for Montreal.

(Omar Gonzalez/Erickson Gallardo photo courtesy Toronto FC official Twitter account)

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