'Caps fan, TFC mid Zavarise puts aside childhood allegiance

Gianluca Zavarise

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

TORONTO — Gianluca Zavarise grew up a Vancouver Whitecaps fan. Now, as a Toronto FC midfielder, his goal is to beat them — not once, but twice this week at BMO Field.

The teams play Wednesday in an MLS match (7:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online) and then again Saturday in the replay of the final second leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.

“My dad always took me to ['Caps] games when I was younger,” said the 24-year-old, who was born in East Vancouver and moved to Burnaby, B.C. “One of my best friend’s brother was Alfredo Valente, who was a very important player for them.

“I was a big, big fan of theirs when I was younger. It’s nice to see them get an MLS team. It’s good to get more Canadian teams in MLS.”

Vancouver, who moved from the USSF D-2 to MLS this season, beat Toronto FC 4-2 in their first-ever MLS match on March 19 at Vancouver. Zavarise played 21 minutes in that game as a substitute.

“A lot of my friends are Whitecaps supporters as well,” Zavarise said Monday after training at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. “It’s kind of mixed feelings when we play each other. I know some friends who had my jersey on at the game and they got a little heat from the rest of the fans, but it’s all fun. It’s good that they show support for the home team and nice to have their support as friends as well.”

The teams drew 1-1 on May 18 at Vancouver in the first game of the Canadian Championship final. Vancouver were leading 1-0 at BMO Field a week later in the second leg when the match was abandoned because of weather and rescheduled to be replayed from the start on Saturday. The winner of the series will represent Canada in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Zavarise is just getting back into form after a groin injury had sidelined since playing 24 minutes in a 3-0 loss to D.C. United on April 16. He did not play in an MLS match until June 15 when he played 23 minutes in a 0-0 draw with New England, and played 90 minutes for the first time this season in Saturday's 3-1 loss at Real Salt Lake.

“It was a bit tough after maybe 50 to 60 minutes — especially at the altitude,” he said. “I haven’t played 90 minutes for a long time. I was out for about a month-and-a-half just doing rehab. I was happy that I came out of there feeling as best I could in terms of my legs. Hopefully I can stay healthy.”

TFC head coach Aron Winter said none of his team’s current crop of injured players will be back for Wednesday’s game, but that there will be some who will return Saturday. Nana Attakora, Alan Gordon, Julian de Guzman, Tony Tchani, Jacob Peterson and Dicoy Williams all missed Saturday's game in Utah.