The Voyageurs Cup Final Begins
March 19th seems like an eternity ago to me. Maybe that’s just my way of trying to put that painful loss to Vancouver aside so that I could concentrate on something more positive, like the possibilities for the rest of the season for Toronto FC. In any case it still feels like a lot longer than two months does it not?
If you remember back to March 19th you will recall DeRo was still TFC’s captain, Aron Winter was still a very unfamiliar face to most of us, and things were apparently looking a lot better for Vancouver then they were for Toronto after we all saw the result, a 4-2 TFC loss at Empire Field. Of course since then DeRo has moved on, Aron Winter is becoming more comfortable in his role as manager, and other than the games versus Montreal in the Voyageurs Cup, the Whitecaps have not won a single MLS league game (five draws and five losses) while TFC has won twice in the league since then.
Without a doubt these two clubs are not exactly tearing up MLS right now. TFC has struggled on the road all season. Vancouver has relied upon a significant number of late goals at home to salvage draws from losing positions. Both clubs have had critical players like Jay Demerit and Alan Gordon injured. At roughly the 1/3 point of the MLS season both sides are on the outside of the playoffs looking in and I think it is fair to say they are both nothing less than long shots at this point when it comes to the post season.
The winner of this two game series gets to try and qualify for the group stages of the Champions League and as reported today that likely looks like a club from Nicaragua, which (due respect to them) is probably going to be somewhat easier than CD Motagua was last year for the Reds. On top of that the Group draw took place today and again it looks a little easier than last season’s group of death that saw TFC drawn with Cruz Azul, Real Salt Lake and those cheating despicable scumbags from Panama. This year the Canadian champion will face the Mexican Clausura champ, another (likely cheating despicable scumbag) Panamanian side, and the winner of the upcomong qualification scrap between FC Dallas and a club from El Salvador.
Obviously the coaches will not want their teams looking much further ahead than the game at hand but human nature being what it is that is sometimes easier said than done. But if it was me doing the pre-game talk tonight I would lay out for the TFC players the fact that if they can secure the Voyageurs Cup for the third time on the hop there is a real possibility that they could make some significant noise this season in the Champions League based on the fact that the draw is a little more favourable this season versus what it was in 2010.
TFC’s mission this evening in Vancouver, short of outright winning the match of course, is to keep it tight at the back and make sure that coming home next week they leave BC giving themselves a reasonable chance to win the two legged series. In that March 19th game TFC’s defensive shortcomings and Vancouver’s strong physical play were on full display. Since then TFC has settled in at least to a small degree and the Whitecaps have in seven home games in all competitions not kept one single clean sheet.
And tonight might see TFC get some help from the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. They host game two of the Stanley Cup Semi Finals at the same time as the Whitecaps are playing and I would not be surprised if Empire Field is less than full this evening for the first time all season due to this scheduling fluke and the fact that I am sure a lot of casual Whitecaps fans are probably much more Canucks Crazy at this point. TFC players need to also remember that they did score twice in that stadium last time out and that an away goal is not out of the realm of possibility, plus it might put a real damper on the type of home support the Whitecaps might receive.
How it will all turn out?? Who knows. But as it always seems to, I think Stefan Frei will at some point will have to likely save the club’s bacon once again.
Next week TFC will have the chance to lift the Voyageurs Cup for the third time in a row. As Reds fans lets hope that whatever the outcome in Vancouver Wednesday evening, there is still a real chance for TFC to win the series outright and once again lift the Voyageurs Cup as Canadian Champions in seven days time.