TORONTO — After an unprecedented move into the top spot in the Eastern Conference, Toronto FC has its sights on FC Dallas and the Supporter's Shield.
First the Reds will have to deal with one of their biggest rivals.
Toronto moved into first place in the East this late in a Major League Soccer season for the first time in club history with a 2-1 win over Orlando City on Wednesday. Entering Saturday's match with Montreal, TFC (12-7-7) are two points back of the Western Conference leaders in Dallas.
"The message is simple right now: don't stop. Don't be satisfied with where we are because ultimately it means nothing," said Toronto captain Michael Bradley. "The mentality has to continue to be one of strength and commitment and determination to continue moving ourselves forward, continuing to improve, continuing to take points.
"You're not going to find anyone around here celebrating at the moment."
Toronto is unbeaten in nine straight at BMO Field and seven games overall.
Despite the recent success, the Reds are in the middle of a three-game, eight-day stretch and are expecting a touch match against their rival further east down the 401 highway.
"It's an important match, obviously a rival, we finally got ourselves up at the top of the conference and we want to stay there so from that perspective, a very important match," said coach Greg Vanney. "It'll be a challenging match, it's the third in the week and we've done a little bit of travel, but we've just got to dig deep, stick to our guns, do the things that we do well and take away the things that they do well."
Midfielders Benoit Cheyrou and Armando Cooper are expected to be available for selection while TFC will be without defenders Mark Bloom and Ashtone Morgan. Hobbled midfielder Jay Chapman is questionable.
Montreal (8-7-10) enters the match following a 1-1 draw against D.C. United at Stade Saputo on Wednesday night. The Impact have not won since a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Aug. 6 and are 2-4-6 on the road this season.
"We can take pride in that we're not happy with the result, but the fans can't say we didn't show heart tonight," keeper Evan Bush said following Wednesday's match. "We fought to get back to 1-1 and we had many chances to go up 2-1.
"Now we're going to a place where it's a big derby, a team that's probably playing the best of any team in the league. We're excited for it. There's no reason not to be excited. We'll go in with a lot of confidence."
Saturday is the second MLS regular season meeting between the two clubs this season. TFC won the previous match 2-0 on April 23. The two teams will meet for a third and final time this season on Oct. 16 in Montreal.
The Impact are 0-3-3 in six MLS meetings at BMO Field.
Notes: The Reds loaned goalkeeper Clint Irwin (quadriceps strain) to Toronto FC II on Friday for conditioning purposes. … TFC forward Tosaint Ricketts was named to Canada's 23-man roster for a pair of 2018 World Cup qualifying matches.
— With files from Bill Beacon in Montreal