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Oct 26, 2013

Impact fail to clinch in Toronto

TORONTO -- Needing a win to secure an MLS playoff berth without help from other teams, the Montreal Impact fell flat. Again.

The Impact turned in a woeful first-half performance and were beaten 1-0 by a Toronto team that started the day 23 points behind its Canadian rival.

Robert Earnshaw scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season in the 16th minute for Toronto (6-17-11), which could have led by three after the first 45 minutes of the regular-season finale for both clubs.

Once a force in the East, the Impact have collected four of a possible 24 points available over their last eight games (1-6-1).

"The first half, we weren't very good," Impact coach Marco Schallibaum said. "A lot of mistakes, a lot of tension. There were errors.

"The second half was better. Not much better, but better. There were also chances to score, maybe (make it) 1-1. But it was not good enough to win this game today. And that's a pity."

Just how much of a pity will be determined Sunday.

Montreal (14-13-7, 49 points) will be out if Houston beats D.C. United, New England defeats Columbus and Chicago beats or ties New York. It could be worse, but the Impact could have rendered Sunday's results meaningless had they shown up Saturday.

With just Toronto, D.C. United and the Columbus Crew eliminated from playoff contention and New York and Sporting Kansas City already in, it made for a complicated final weekend in the East with Montreal, Chicago, New England, Houston and Philadelphia vying for the final three playoff berths.

Philadelphia was ousted after losing 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City earlier in the day. The Union had needed a win and help from other teams.

Chicago (49 points), Houston (48) and New England (48) all get their chance Sunday.

The Impact went into the weekend in the best position, tied with Chicago on points but well ahead in the next tiebreaker (goals for).

There was little on the line for Toronto other than pride -- and the chance to pick up a sixth win, one more than last season, when the team went 5-21-8.

It was a "win and you're in" game for Montreal but there was little sense of urgency from the visitors despite the cheers of Impact supporters squeezed into the corner of the east stand of BMO Field.

After a sluggish start by both teams, Toronto began to take control and outshot the Impact 10-5 (5-0 in shots on target) in the first half.

Montreal made changes in the second half and began to finally test the Toronto defense. The Impact outshot Toronto 10-6 in the second half, but only put three shots on target to Toronto's two.

When Montreal did find its aim, Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik was equal to the task.

He stopped Davey Arnaud at point-blank range in the 53rd minute. And he robbed Andres Romero in the 88th minute.

Montreal misfired the rest of the time.

A 62nd-minute goal by Marco Di Vaio was called off due to apparent handball. Three minutes later, substitute Andrea Pisanu headed just wide. Andrew Wenger shot wide from in front of the net in the 72nd minute.

Toronto was coming off a 1-0 loss in Chicago, a defeat that stretched its league road scoring drought to 6hours, 45 minutes. Toronto has failed to make the playoffs since entering the league in 2007.

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