ACC Preview: 'Caps look for payback vs. TFC in finals

VAN TOR DL

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VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC vs. TORONTO FC
BC Place, Vancouver, British Columbia, May 16, 2012
Amway Canadian Championship final first leg
10 pm ET (Sportsnet)

Continuing their pursuit of a first-ever Voyageurs Cup title, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W-0L-0D in ACC) host Major League Soccer rivals Toronto FC (1W-0L-1D in ACC) in the first leg of this year’s Amway Canadian Championship (ACC) final on Wednesday evening.

The Blue and White will be a determined side in this two-leg final series, as Whitecaps FC have come close to winning the ACC title on a couple of occasions. They advanced to this year’s final after getting past North American Soccer League side FC Edmonton in the semifinals. The ‘Caps host a TFC squad that are looking to put a woeful start in MLS aside by claiming a fourth-straight Voyageurs Cup title. Though they have played in Vancouver before, the first leg will be TFC’s first-ever match on Bell Pitch at BC Place.

Wednesday’s ACC final, first leg, between Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC at BC Place kicks off at 7 pm PT. Individual match tickets start at $20, plus applicable service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277). CLICK HERE for more information on Whitecaps FC tickets.

Whitecaps FC's ACC final, first leg, vs. Toronto FC can also be seen live on Sportsnet ONE at 7 pm PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to Wednesday’s match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5 pm PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 9 pm PT. Fans can also follow Wednesday’s match on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.

WATCH: De Guzman says "title means a lot"

AMWAY CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP

As in 2011, this year’s Amway Canadian Championship has been contested by four Canadian clubs — Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal from MLS, as well as Edmonton from the second-tier NASL. The tournament will consist of a home-and-away semifinal stage followed by a home-and-away championship final series. The semifinal pairings were based on the final standings of the four clubs in their respective leagues last season.

Three-time defending champions Toronto FC are the top seed, while last year’s runners-up Whitecaps FC are the second seed after The Reds finished above Vancouver in MLS in 2011. FC Edmonton are the third seed after finishing above MLS expansion side Montreal Impact in the 2011 NASL standings, as the Quebec club were part of North America’s second division last year.

In the semifinals, Whitecaps FC defeated FC Edmonton 5-1 on aggregate following last week’s 3-1 victory in the second leg at BC Place. The other semifinal series saw Toronto FC defeat Eastern Canadian rivals Montreal 2-0 on aggregate following a 2-0 second-leg win at Toronto’s BMO Field last week. The two-leg championship final between Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC will be played this Wednesday night and Wednesday, May 23. As the highest-seeded team, Toronto FC opted to play the first leg in Vancouver and the decisive second leg at their BMO Field home.

During the final series, if both clubs are level on aggregate over the two games, the "Away Goals" rule will be used to determine the series winner (ie: the club that scores the most goals on the road over the two games). If the "Away Goals" rule does not produce a result (i.e.: both teams have scored the same number of goals at home and away), then two 15-minute periods of extra time will be played at the end of the second leg. If, during extra time, both teams score the same number of goals, the visiting team will win the series on the strength of the number of "Away Goals" they have scored in the extra-time period. If no goals are scored during extra time, the series will then be determined with a penalty shootout.

The winner of the 2012 Amway Canadian Championship not only claim the Voyageurs Cup title and the bragging rights as Canada's top club, they will also represent Canada in the 2012-13 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, where they will play the top clubs in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The winner of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League title will then represent the confederation at the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco.

WATCH: 'Caps look for redemption in ACC finals

WHITECAPS FC

A sense of anticipation has surrounded Whitecaps FC regarding this latest opportunity to be crowned Canadian champions. The heartbreak of 2009, and in particular last year’s final against TFC, should serve as motivation for Martin Rennie’s squad over this two-leg series. Starting the final series at home, the onus will be on Vancouver to earn a positive result and take that advantage to Southern Ontario next week. This scenario will likely see the ‘Caps play an attack-minded lineup in search of goals this Wednesday night.

There is also a sense of redemption that Vancouver will want to claim with their performance in the first leg. Saturday’s humbling defeat at New England Revolution in MLS left a bitter taste in the mouth, so the chance to put that loss right gives Rennie’s side the motivation to display their qualities on Wednesday night and this weekend against Cascadia Cup rivals Seattle Sounders FC at BC Place.

Whitecaps FC are without goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre (knee) for Wednesday’s match, while striker Atiba Harris (quad) is listed as questionable.

WATCH: Winter eyes result in first leg

TORONTO FC

2012 has been eventful — if not turbulent — for Aron Winter’s side. With a 0W-8L-0D record, TFC earned the dubious distinction of having the worst start to an MLS season in league history. Their current plight may have been the reason behind Monday’s coaching staff changes at BMO Field.

Former Toronto FC captain Jim Brennan becomes Winter’s new assistant coach, with Bob de Klerk moving upstairs to the role of technical manager. Director of player development Paul Mariner will take a more active role on the pitch, occasionally coaching the team’s strikers, in addition to his regular responsibilities at TFC.

For all of their MLS woes, TFC have found a silver lining in other competitions. Last year’s Voyageurs Cup success led to a remarkable run to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL).

Though their CCL journey was ended by Mexican powerhouse Club Santos Laguna, The Reds are looking at their two-leg semifinal success over Montreal Impact as a turning point, with TFC now undefeated in 11 ACC matches (7W-0L-4D). In fact, the last time TFC lost a Canadian Championship game was to Whitecaps FC at Swangard Stadium on June 2, 2009.

TFC will be without goalkeeper Stefan Frei (leg), defender Dicoy Williams (knee) and striker Nicholas Lindsay (knee). Former German international Torsten Frings (shoulder) is listed as questionable.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Wednesday’s match will be the 11th all-time meeting between Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC. Before their two clashes in MLS last season, the first six meetings came in the first three editions of the Canadian Championship when Vancouver was a North American second division club. Since 2008, Whitecaps FC have amassed a 3W-3L-4D record versus TFC. This includes an undefeated home record of 2W-0L-3D vs. the Reds. Both clubs met in preseason on March 3, as the ’Caps defeated TFC 1-0 in the championship final of the 2012 Disney Pro Soccer Classic in Orlando, Fla.

There are several player connections between Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC. ‘Caps midfielder Russell Teibert was a member of TFC Academy before joining Whitecaps FC Residency in 2008. Rennie’s assistant Carl Robinson spent three seasons as a player with TFC, where he was twice named the club’s Most Valuable Player. The Reds roster includes centre back Adrian Cann, who won a United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) title with Whitecaps FC in 2006, while Vancouver native Terry Dunfield spent parts of 2010 and 2011 with the Blue and White.