ACC Preview: Toronto gun for fourth straight title vs. 'Caps
TORONTO FC vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC
BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario, May 23, 2012
Amway Canadian Championship final second leg
8 pm ET (Sportsnet One)
Eric Hassli’s 90th-minute howitzer ensured a 1-1 draw for the Vancouver Whitecaps against Toronto FC at BC Place last Wednesday, but it's the Reds who have the upper hand heading into the second leg of Amway Canadian Championship finals.
Winners of the last three Canadian Championships, Toronto FC hold an away-goal advantage over a Whitecaps team looking for their first-ever national title. Vancouver also played Toronto in the finals last season, falling 2-1 in the second leg after posting a 1-1 result at Empire Field.
And though TFC are a dismal 0-9-0 to start their 2012 MLS season, the task of taking a result out of Toronto is still daunting for the 'Caps — no Vancouver team has won a game at BMO Field since Canada Day in 2008.
Reaction to Hassli wonderstrike vs. TFC
Amway Canadian Championship
As in 2011, this year’s Amway Canadian Championship has been contested by four Canadian clubs — MLS teams Vancouver, Toronto, and the Montreal Impact, as well as NASL club FC Edmonton. The tournament consists 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 the MLS expansion side Impact in the 2011 NASL standings.
In the semifinals, Whitecaps FC defeated FC Edmonton 5-1 on aggregate, while Toronto FC defeated Eastern Canadian rivals Montreal 2-0 on aggregate. The two-leg championship final between Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC started at BC Place last Wednesday night and finished in a 1-1 draw, with TFC holding the advantage of scoring an "Away Goal," heading into Wednesday’s second leg in Toronto. As the highest-seeded team, Toronto FC opted to play last week’s first leg in Vancouver and this week’s second leg at their BMO Field home.
Carl Valentine on ACC Finals History
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 (ie: 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.
Though they left it late to earn a draw in the first leg, Vancouver know what they have to do in Toronto: score goals and claim a victory. There are motivating factors from which the Blue and White can use for inspiration at BMO Field. Last year’s final, second leg, remains a memory for many in Martin Rennie’s squad after the original match was washed out by a thunderstorm on May 25, 2011, before TFC won the replay on July 2, 2011. The ‘Caps can also take motivation from last Saturday’s respectable 2-2 home draw with Cascadia Cup rivals Seattle Sounders FC, even though the Emerald City outfit struck a late equalizer for a share of the spoils at BC Place. It was a Vancouver performance that had one of the top clubs in MLS under pressure for large spells of the derby contest.
The availability of a near fully-fit squad during this very busy spell has been a blessing for Rennie, with another Cascadia Cup derby clash at Portland Timbers to follow Wednesday’s big match in Toronto. Only goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre (knee) remains on the sidelines, while striker Atiba Harris (quad) is listed as questionable.
Previewing Vancouver matchup
After losing their ninth straight MLS match on Saturday at D.C. United, there was no holiday rest for the Reds. Head coach Aron Winter put his team through a training session on Victoria Day (Monday) behind closed doors, and practiced again on Tuesday.
Having won the last three Canadian Championship titles, the importance of Wednesday’s second leg to TFC’s 2012 season cannot be understated. The Reds’ struggles in MLS have put more emphasis on re-claiming the Voyageurs Cup and returning to the CONCACAF Champions League. Yet, Aron Winter’s side can take inspiration from their overall form in the ACC, as last week’s first-leg result extended their unbeaten run in the competition to 12 matches (7-0-2). Toronto's last loss in this competition came on June 2, 2009, but the Whitecaps also have the distinction of being the only team in the Voyageurs Cup to beat Toronto at BMO Field.
TFC performed well versus the ‘Caps at BC Place and a repeat display will be needed, if they are to continue their reign as the top club side in Canada. After winning the Voyageurs Cup last season, Toronto established a new benchmark for Canadian clubs in the CCL by reaching the semifinals of the competition, before bowing out to Mexican champion Santos Laguna.
TFC are without goalkeeper Stefan Frei (lower leg) and striker Nicholas Lindsay (knee) for the second leg. Chilean centre back Miguel Aceval (quad) is listed as doubtful, while Jamaican defender Dicoy Williams (knee) and former German international Torsten Frings (shoulder) are listed as questionable.
Wednesday’s second leg will be the 12th all-time meeting between Vancouver and Toronto. 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 3-3-5 record vs. TFC. This includes a record of 1-3-1 vs. the Reds in Toronto. Following this ACC final series, both clubs will meet again in MLS action at BMO Field on July 11.
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.