Toronto FC’s 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo was the first MLS match since a Wednesday player protest that led to the postponement of five matches in an athlete-led display of solidarity that stretched across pro sports. The move served to shine a national and international spotlight on the struggle against racism, social injustice and violence by police against the Black community.
But 48 hours after that powerful statement, one team would have still preferred to take another stand and sit out. Montreal defender Rudy Camacho revealed that the players on his team, which was not involved in the midweek slate of matches, did not wish to play on Friday and his center back partner Luis Binks subsequently confirmed as much in the postgame press conference.
“Yeah, no one [on the Impact] wanted to play. That’s true,” Binks said. “But I don’t think we can use that as an excuse. The final decision was to play, so we played the game. We weren’t good enough. They were pretty better than us. They had more chances than us.
“There are a lot of boys in the changing room, if not everyone, who felt that the right decision was to support what’s going on and try to make a stand against what’s going on in the U.S. And we thought it would be quite powerful if two Canadian clubs – although it’s not happening in Canada, racism happens everywhere – but although what happened didn’t happen directly in Canada, we thought it would be good for us to show our support.
“But for whatever reason that didn’t happen. And we played the game. But I don’t think we can use that as an excuse to say that’s why we didn’t win or that’s why we didn’t play as well as we can.”
Binks indicated there was outreach to Toronto FC to express the Impact’s stance, but “that’s where the message got lost,” according to Binks.
“They wanted one thing, we wanted another,” Binks said. “For whatever reason we didn’t come together to decide. We made it clear what we wanted but, yeah, the game got played. There was a divide between the two camps – they wanted to play, we didn’t. Obviously, like I said earlier, we can’t use that as an excuse that’s why we didn’t win because the final decision was to play. And me, personally, I wasn’t good enough tonight.”
Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley was asked about the communication between the two teams prior to the match, but he didn’t feel the topic needed addressing.
“It’s not worth talking about. Again, there are real things to talk about. There are important issues at hand,” Bradley said in reference to the social justice movement. “The behind-the-scenes stuff that has gone on in so many different locker rooms and across different leagues, that stuff is not important right now.”
Although media members insisted upon asking Montreal manager Thierry Henry about the state of mind and the motivation shown by his players, the Frenchman was adamant that he would only answer questions that were specific to what happened in the match.
“Please can we talk about the game?” Henry said. “Toronto played a good game and they deserved to win today. So can we talk about that?”
“Toronto kept the ball at the beginning and didn’t give us the ball back cheaply. [Alejandro] Pozuelo, [Pablo] Piatti – guys like that in the middle. [Marky] Delgado with [Michael] Bradley – they know how to manage the ball. And so it became difficult for us to get it back. Once you don’t get it back, you can’t obviously impose your style and so it became difficult. Like I said, they were better than us on the day, but we have an opportunity to rectify that on Tuesday.”
That’s Tuesday, Sept. 1 when the two rivals will meet again, this time with the scene shifting to BMO Field in Toronto (8 p.m. ET).