VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps now know their path to the Voyageurs Cup.
Vancouver will square up against NASL side FC Edmonton to determine who will face the winner of the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship final, according to sources within the Canadian Soccer Association.
Last season’s two-leg format saw the Whitecaps lose to Toronto 3-2 on aggregate.
The winner of the Canadian Championship receives qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League, meaning there’s more than just national pride on the line. The Whitecaps have been runners-up to Toronto FC for three consecutive seasons, and have yet to win the NCC title since its inception in 2008.
Bonjour to add bite
Big, nasty central defenders can be a nightmare for attacking players, and the Whitecaps are hoping new signing Martín Bonjour is just that.
Last Friday, the club signed the hulking Argentine, who stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 190 pounds, to bolster a backline which conceded the third-most goals in Major League Soccer last season.
“It’s no secret that one of the areas we needed to shore up was central defense,” Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said. “What we needed there was someone with real bite, with size who can operate from both offensive and defensive set plays, and give us a chance of negating goals, and at the other end, scoring them.”
Head coach Martin Rennie mentioned the possibility of a partnership between Bonjour and captain Jay DeMerit during an video interview on WhitecapsFC.com shortly after the signing was announced, and all signs point to the 26-year-old being given a real chance as a starter.
“We see him as someone as being a bit of a linchpin in the middle of the defense for us,” Lenarduzzi said. “He’s someone who’s going to make forwards well aware of the fact that he’s on the field, and he’s going to make it as difficult for them to perform as well as possible.”
Probably no Beckham, definitely a lot less travel
MLS released its schedule last week, and there are a few interesting notes pertinent to the Whitecaps.
Presuming David Beckham re-signs with the LA Galaxy for next season as reports indicate, it’s more than likely Vancouver fans won’t get a chance to watch him play due to the London Olympics. Great Britain manager Stuart Pearce has been vocal about wanting to include the former England captain as one of the three players over the age of 23 permitted in his squad.
In 2012, the Whitecaps will play their Cascadian cousins three times each. Vancouver host the Seattle Sounders twice (May 19 and Sept. 29) and the Portland Timbers once (Oct. 20) in three matches sure to highlight the fixture list this coming season. The home match against the Timbers could be of particular importance as its Vancouver’s second-last regular season match.
The unbalanced schedule means the league’s most-traveled club in league play last season will cut its travel from around 53,000 miles to around 29,000 miles.
“It will benefit the Whitecaps the most because of where we’re situated on the MLS map, but it’s going to help every club,” Lenarduzzi said. “There’ll be less travel for everyone for the most part. That is a huge benefit, but when you look at the schedule, it’s balanced in terms of the home games we play.
“It’s a better schedule than I would have expected, quite frankly.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.