Toronto FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, Amway Canadian Championship, first leg of final
Date and Location
Wednesday, May 16 at 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET, Vancouver’s BC Place
The game will air live on Sportsnet ONE, starting with a pre-game show at 6:30 p.m. PT / 9:30 p.m. ET
Setting the scene
Think this tournament doesn’t mean anything to the players? Think all that matters to them is MLS?
“The winner lifts a trophy and the loser gets forgotten,” Whitecaps midfielder John Thorrington told the Canadian Press this week. “So we definitely don’t want to come up on the losing ends over these next two weeks.”
Toronto and Vancouver enter Wednesday’s contest at opposite ends of the MLS spectrum. The Whitecaps (5-3-2) sit comfortably in fourth place in the Western Conference, and look to be serious playoff contenders. TFC has lost all eight of its MLS matches, and are dead last in the 19-team league.
While Vancouver easily brushed aside FC Edmonton of the second-tier NASL in the semifinals, Toronto had a tougher time of it against the Montreal Impact, needing a 2-0 win at home in the second leg to advance to the final.
The good news for Toronto is that the first leg of this home-and-away final marks the return of Danny Koevermans. The Dutch forward has not played since a 1-0 loss to Chivas USA on Apr. 14, sitting out the club’s last five matches with a groin strain.
Even before suffering the injury, Koevermans hardly was prolific, scoring just one goal in five games this season (three as a starter).
Needless to say the former PSV Eindhoven star is looking to provide the Reds with an offensive spark.
“It’s all about the team,” Koevermans told reporters this week. “If I can’t score in the next three weeks and we win, I’m fine with that. But of course as a striker it’s important to get a goal and I’ve been close in the first five games. It could have easily been four or five goals.”
There’s a bit of history between these two teams in this competition.
In last year’s final, the Whitecaps enjoyed a 1-0 lead in Toronto in the second leg before the match was abandoned because of torrential rain and lightning. The match was replayed on Jul. 1, with the Reds emerging victorious to claim the title.
Clearly, some of the Whitecaps still feel aggrieved.
“This Canadian cup was stolen or something,” forward Eric Hassli told the team’s official website. “I was mad, I was sad. But now, we have another chance, and it starts on Wednesday, so we have to be focused on that.”
The return leg is next Wednesday in Toronto at BMO Field.
News and notes
Toronto will be missing midfielder Torsten Frings (shoulder) and defender Miguel Aceval (hamstring) through injury. Defender Richard Eckersley is suspended after picking up a red card last week against Montreal… Whitecaps striker Atiba Harris (quad) is questionable… Toronto is the three-time defending Canadian champions… The Whitecaps have never won this tournament, and have finished runners-up to TFC the past three years… The winner of this series automatically qualifies for the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League.
Player to watch for Vancouver
Eric Hassli: The burly Frenchman has rediscovered his scoring touch after a barren spell to start the season, and he’ll try to keep his hot streak going against the Reds.
Player to watch for Toronto
Danny Koevermans: The big Dutch forward is expected to start for the Reds, and it’ll be interesting to see how he leads the line after a lengthy injury layoff.
Camilo vs. Julian de Guzman: The wily Brazilian is the Whitecaps’ most creative player, and is very hard to contain. It’ll be up to de Guzman, who did such a great job of marking Dwayne De Rosario in a recent game against DC United, to shut down Camilo.
The Vancouver perspective
“We did a great start (against New England). But, we made mistakes. We win together, we lose together — it doesn’t matter — now we have to be focused on Wednesday.” — forward Eric Hassli told the team’s official website.
The Toronto perspective
“I don’t look at the standings anymore but when you do you still see zero points. And it was fine to finally get a victory (over Montreal) and to make it to the final and we’re going to try to win this one, too, to try to get into the Champions League. But I would like to get some points in the league, too. We still feel pressure, of course.” — forward Danny Koevermans.
Toronto returns to MLS action on Saturday when it visits DC United. Vancouver hosts the Seattle Sounders on the same day.