A final is always a special occasion, but for Vancouver Whitecaps FC winger Russell Teibert, playing against Toronto FC in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship second-leg on Saturday (12:30 pm ET, Rogers Sportsnet One) holds even greater meaning.
The Niagara Falls, Ontario, native played for the Toronto FC U-16 side in 2008, before eventually moving on to the Whitecaps.
“I had a great time there,” Teibert told MLSsoccer.com. “I enjoyed the coaching staff. Stuart Neely was the coach, and playing with all the kids at the TFC Academy, we were like a bunch of brothers.”
Teibert insisted he has nothing to prove against the organization despite not advancing through that club’s system, although did concede “bragging rights” are on the line.
“I’m on great terms with the Toronto guys, from the players through to the coaches,” Teibert said. “I have a great amount of respect for them. There’s nothing personal — it’s a team battle.”
Competing for the Voyageurs Cup as a young Canadian makes the stakes even higher.
“Right now it means absolutely everything,” Teibert said. “It’s the biggest game of the year. It’s going to mean a lot to myself, a lot to the team and a lot for the club. It’s the Canadian Championship and obviously we want to be the best team in the country.”
Following his side’s 1-0 loss against Toronto FC in league play this Wednesday, Teibert explained the biggest change required isn’t tactical, but mental.
“I don’t think there are any major changes we need to make,” Teibert said. “I think it’s just a mentality thing. We do need to take our chances when we get them and finish off games. I don’t think there are any major changes with regards to our system or players needed.”
The trophy itself isn’t the only thing on the line. The victor advances to the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round to face Nicaraguan side Real Estelí FC.
“If we do win this championship, we all understand that there’s going to be a bunch of great games coming up, and I’m sure everybody on the team wants to experience that,” Teibert said. “It’s a must-win for us this Saturday.”