FC Edmonton vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
Clarke Stadium, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Amway Canadian Championship semifinals, first leg
May 6, 10 pm ET
Just one week after Canada's representative fell agonizingly close of winning the CONCACAF Champions League, the path to the 2016-17 CCL picks up with the entry of the three Canadian MLS teams into this year's edition of the Amway Canadian Championship. The Vancouver Whitecaps, who qualified for the 2015-16 CCL as Canada's best MLS finisher last season, open their tournament on the road against the NASL's FC Edmonton, 6-2 aggregate winners over the Ottawa Fury in the preliminary round.
Vancouver are expected to field a young squad in Wednesday's game, sandwiched between MLS outings at Portland (a 0-0 tie last Saturday) and against Philadelphia (7 pm ET this Saturday). Last year, the Whitecaps started four teenagers in the first leg and three in the second leg of their semifinal series against Toronto FC, falling on penalty kicks despite an eye-opening performance from goalkeeper Marco Carducci.
A younger lineup this year could mean minutes for Carducci, US U-23 international Christian Dean, first-round SuperDraft pick Tim Parker and Homegrown Players Marco Bustos, Kianz Froese (who played last year), and Ben McKendry.
This is the third series meeting between the clubs; Vancouver beat Edmonton 5-1 on aggregate in 2012 and 5-2 on aggregate in 2013, each time winning the first leg at the much larger Commonwealth Stadium.
Vancouver lost in the Canadian Championship final in 2011, 2012 and 2013 before playing the younger squad and losing in the semifinals last year.
FC Edmonton have never beaten an MLS team over two legs (0-4), although they were minutes away from beating Montreal in last year's Canadian Championship semifinals.
The Opponent – What you need to know about FC Edmonton
Coach: Colin Miller (Canada)
Position: 8th in 11-team NASL (1-1-2; 5 pts, 7 GF/8 GA)
Best Canadian Championship finish: Semifinals (2011-14)
How they got here: Beat Ottawa Fury 6-2 on aggregate (3-1 away, 3-1 home) in preliminary round
The Eddies lost their NASL opener but are unbeaten in their last five games in all competitions after holding defending regular-season champion Minnesota United to a 2-2 tie on Sunday. They went 8-5-5 in the NASL's fall 2014 season to place third, their best finish since debuting in 2011, but did not qualify for the postseason.
Edmonton's roster includes former MLSers Edson Edward, Sainey Nyassi and Johann Smith, but Northern Irish forward Daryl Fordyce has totaled 13 NASL goals over the last two seasons to lead the team in that stretch. Fordyce and Tomi Ameobi, the brother of Premier League regulars Shola and Sammy, scored in each leg of the preliminary round, with Nyassi scoring in the second leg.
- The latest 'Caps headlines at WhitecapsFC.com
One to watch: Lance Laing – The 27-year-old Jamaican midfielder scored seven goals in 27 games last year and has struck twice in the first five league games in 2015, also scoring in the first leg in Ottawa. Watch for his left foot on set pieces. Not convinced? Check out this free kick he scored against Minnesota this past weekend.
X-Factor: Hanson Boakai – We don't actually know if he's going to play. Boakai started the year in Colin Miller's doghouse but came off the bench in the second leg against Ottawa. The 18-year-old, already in his third professional season, started all four Edmonton games in the tournament last year and was one of the best players on the field, scoring once against Ottawa and assisting two of Edmonton's four goals against Montreal. "Canadian Messi" might be a stretch, but if he gets in the game, he's a treat to watch.