Nothing will be known for certain until an hour before kickoff, but if the buildup to the Canadian Championship final second leg on Wednesday is any indication, there’s a strong possibility the Vancouver Whitecaps will be without one of their most dangerous weapons when they to face Toronto FC.
Alphonso Davies participated in a portion of training Tuesday in Toronto with his teammates as he recovers from a groin injury suffered in last week’s 2-2 draw in the opening leg of the final at BC Place. He did not dress in Vancouver’s 2-1 victory over the Portland Timbers on Saturday in MLS play. When asked how Davies looked in his first training session, coach Carl Robinson sounded cautious at best.
“Not great to be honest,” Robinson told reporters after practice. “He took part in a little bit of training, but I took him out at the end because he was feeling it, so not great.”
Whether or not Davies is available will not change Vancouver’s game plan entering the week. The task ahead is simple: The Whitecaps need positive results in both matches (Wednesday vs. TFC and Saturday at home against the New York Red Bulls), if they want to keep their hopes alive of making both the CONCACAF Champions League and Major League Soccer playoffs.
“I don’t think our guys get enough credit about how they produced the performance of that magnitude on the weekend [in Portland],” Robinson stated. “I certainly give them a lot of credit. I know a lot of people outside of Vancouver don’t. We’re used to being the underdog.”
Despite a roller coaster ride of moments on the field the last week, both positive and negative, the Whitecaps find themselves undefeated in five straight matches. Last weekend’s victory in what is always a hostile environment, and against a Timbers squad that had not lost in 15 straight, is something the Whitecaps hope they can build upon in their quest for the Voyageurs Cup.
“To go in there and spoil the party gives you even more confidence going into Toronto at BMO Field,” said goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, who was named to the MLS team of the week based on his seven-save effort against Portland.
While the result in Oregon gives them some momentum, the Whitecaps will need to find a way to forget how their last meeting with Toronto ended a week ago. Despite being down to 10 men, Vancouver had a 2-1 lead in the dying seconds of the match before defender Doneil Henry accidently headed the ball into his net. Even though the game ended in a draw, nobody could blame the Whitecaps or their fans for feeling as if it was a loss. It is a feeling the players cannot afford to dwell on when stepping on to the pitch Wednesday.
“To play a whole half [down a man] and really be focused was good for us to get a result,” Kei Kamara told Sportsnet 650. “We wanted to put ourselves in a position to give ourselves a chance in the second game here in Toronto. We’re ready for it. It’s a challenge.”
He later added: “It’s a final, and that’s the approach we’re taking to it. We’re not going to hold back, but at the same time we’re not just going to go gung-ho in the first 20 minutes of the game. We have to be patient because goals will come.”
A key to Vancouver’s success has been finding a way to score first. The Whitecaps are undefeated this season when opening the scoring (9-0-2), including their last four straight. On the flipside, Vancouver has not been great at playing catch-up, as they have posted just one win in 13 games when allowing the first goal.
The Whitecaps are trying to capture the Voyageurs Cup for just the second time since joining MLS. In 2015, Vancouver defeated the Montreal Impact at BC Place. The following year, Vancouver had a chance to repeat at home, but a last-minute goal by Will Johnson proved to be the difference maker for TFC. Toronto is searching for their third straight national title, and seventh overall.