If there were any questions about where Vancouver Whitecaps FC's priorities lie, they were answered Wednesday evening.
Head coach Tom Soehn hinted last week that the Nutrilite Canadian Championship final second-leg would be the main focus for his team.
“You’re always looking to play for cups,” Soehn told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s an important game and it’s a trophy involved. The league game is important, but we want to set ourselves up for success in the Nutrilite.”
True to those words, Soehn made eight changes to his starting lineup and rested the majority of his starters for Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Toronto FC in an effort to ensure he has the strongest possible team for Saturday's final (12:30 pm ET, Rogers Sportsnet).
And while defeat in Toronto was disappointing, the final represents a chance at redemption.
“We have to get over this loss right away,” goalkeeper Jay Nolly told the Vancouver Sun immediately after the match. “There's a quick turnaround to Saturday and right now, that's the biggest game of our season.”
Vancouver native and midfielder Terry Dunfield said the loss won’t impact the team’s morale going into the final.
“I think we will still go into this game confidently,” Dunfield said. “We’ve got some talented players and we just need to all come together. What a great opportunity it is this weekend to go out and win a trophy on Toronto’s turf. That would be huge for us and the club.”
The Whitecaps have yet to win a Voyageurs Cup, though they came close on May 26 when the second leg was originally scheduled. With the aggregate score at 1-1 after the first leg in Vancouver, the Whitecaps took an early lead at BMO Field. However, the match was abandoned in the second half because of lightning and a waterlogged pitch, and according to NCC rules, the match will need to be replayed in its entirety.
So with history on the line, it’s all to play for Saturday. The team that emerges as Canadian champions will also advance to the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round to face Nicaraguan side Real Estelí FC.