Do or die. Biggest game of the season.
Those are some of the words being used by players to describe Saturday’s decisive second leg replay of the 2011 Nutrilite Canadian Championship between the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC (12:30 pm ET, Rogers Sportsnet One, sportsnet.ca, Sportsnet Radio). Vancouver held a 1-0 lead with 30 minutes remaining in the second leg back on May 26 before the match was abandoned and rescheduled due to lightning and a waterlogged field.
The aggregate-goal series winner, who will fittingly be crowned on Canada Day weekend, not only earns national bragging rights but also clinches a berth into the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round against Nicaraguan side Real Estelí later this month.
TFC hold a slight edge on away goals following a 1-1 first leg draw in Vancouver back on May 18 — Maicon Santos cancelling out a goal by Vancouver’s Eric Hassli — and a repeat of that result during regulation on Saturday will lead to extra time and penalty kicks if necessary.
In a season that has seen many setbacks for TFC, Wednesday proved to be a good day for Southern Ontario outfit. Not only did they end their nine-match winless run in MLS with Wednesday's result over Vancouver, they also unveiled two new Designated Players in former German World Cup star Torsten Frings and Dutch striker Danny Koevermans. Both players are expected to have a positive impact on a struggling Reds side once they are eligible to play for their new club on July 15.
As for TFC's quest to win a third-straight Voyageurs Cup title, the long list of injuries that Aron Winter's side have had to endure may be clearing up, as several players may be available for the second leg. Midfielders Julian de Guzman and Tony Tchani seem closest to regaining fitness after coming through a full training session with TFC on Canada Day. Center back Nana Attakora, winger Jacob Peterson and strikers Alan Gordon and Maicon Santos all jogged and took part in TFC's scrimmage at training on Friday, but the quartet seem not as close to full fitness as de Guzman or Tchani.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC
Tom Soehn's decision to play a younger lineup in Wednesday's league defeat at TFC underlined the importance of Saturday's match to the Blue and White, as several key players earned a rest in order to be ready for this weekend. Whitecaps FC fans will not only anticipate a stronger looking lineup for the second leg, but an improved performance as well. Despite dominating possession in Wednesday's league game, Whitecaps FC struggled to test TFC goalkeeper Stefan Frei during the league contest.
The 'Caps look to have some options available for Saturday's game, as captain Jay DeMerit (groin) and fellow defender Alain Rochat (quad) are listed as probable for the second leg after the pair missed Wednesday's match. Center back Mouloud Akloul (hamstring) remains questionable, while the club is still without midfielders Davide Chiumiento (hamstring) and John Thorrington (calf), as well as striker Atiba Harris (knee).
Saturday's NCC final second leg will be the 10th all-time meeting between Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC. Before their two MLS clashes this season, the first six meetings came in the last three editions of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship when Vancouver were a North American second-division club. Since 2008, Whitecaps FC have amassed a favorable record of three wins, two defeats and four draws vs. TFC. This includes a record of one win, two defeats and one draw vs. The Reds in Toronto.