Slumping Toronto FC still a ‘top team’ in MLS: Whitecaps coach

Marc-Dos-Santos

Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

VANCOUVER – One of the city’s greatest sporting accomplishments will be recognized Friday night as the Vancouver Whitecaps pay tribute to their 1979 Soccer Bowl championship team at BC Place when they host Toronto FC.
 
Long before Major League Soccer existed, the Whitecaps competed in the North America Soccer League. Led by Hall of Fame coach Tony Waiters, Vancouver pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NASL history when they defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Giants Stadium in New York. That team will be honoured before Friday’s match, and for this current Whitecaps squad it is a moment they look forward to experiencing. 
 
“Hopefully I can get a good picture with them,” Whitecaps top scorer Freddy Montero said this week. “All that matters is having those memories and having the opportunity to be next to those who have been good for the past of the team.”

Canadian-born defender Derek Cornelius added: “The whole idea around this club is to build a tradition and identity. To know what those players did before us just helps us to continue to build the club in the right direction.”
 
Coach Marc Dos Santos was just two years old when the Whitecaps were crowned North American champions. Having won championships at different levels in Canada, the United States and Brazil, he knows what a major trophy does for the history of a club and the legacy it leaves for future players.
 
“It’s super important, even for me to know it,” Dos Santos said.
 
“I understand what happened in the city. I have asked myself, ‘Imagine if it could happen again?’ Hopefully that spirit could come back to Vancouver.”
 
As the 1979 Whitecaps return to Vancouver, the 2019 edition of the club happens to be in their best form of the season. Now at 4-6-5, the ‘Caps have taken points in six of their last seven matches. They prepare to host Toronto FC who are desperate for a victory, having gone five straight without a win with four losses. 
 
Regardless of Toronto’s current record (5-6-2), Dos Santos knows his players better be ready to play against one of the premier teams in MLS.
 
“I believe there are seven to eight teams [that are] top teams in the league and Toronto is one of them,” said Dos Santos. “In the last three years, they went to two MLS Cup finals.
 
“I know what they’re about. I know their core. We’re always going to respect an opponent like Toronto.”
 
Friday’s match also marks the first time that Cornelius will have a chance to play his hometown team. Last year’s Canadian Youth International Player of the Year knows bragging rights will be on the line, but the focus for him and his team will not change.
 
“It’s exciting. I know some of the guys from the national team,” said Cornelius . “It would definitely be nice to get three points.”

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NOTES & TIDBITS

Both Vancouver and Toronto have yet to lose this season when leading at half time, as the Whitecaps are 4-0-1, while TFC is 4-0-0. In addition, neither club has won a game this year when trailing after 45 minutes.

The MLS series between these two sides is dead even 4-4-1 since Vancouver entered the league in 2011. Niagara Falls native Russell Teibert had the winning goal for the Whitecaps in their lone meeting last season, a 2-1 victory at BMO Field on Oct. 6.

Teibert is one of seven Canadian-born players from the two clubs who will play at the Gold Cup next month. Other Whitecaps named to Canada’s roster include goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, and defenders Derek Cornelius and Doneil Henry (injured). Toronto FC midfielders Jonathan Orsoio and Noble Okello as well as defender Ashtone Morgan are also on Canada’s roster.

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