Caps to at least control Cup destiny - The Province

Schedule will rule out team watching another Voyageurs farce

By Marc Weber

If the Vancouver Whitecaps miss out on a CONCACAF Champions League berth this season, at least they'll be on the field when it happens.

Head coaches from the Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and Toronto FC joined CSA officials in Toronto on Thursday to unveil the 2010 Nutrilite Canadian Championship schedule.

The six-game tournament determines the Voyageurs Cup winner and serves as Canada's qualifier for the CONCACAF Champions League.

Nutrilite play runs on consecutive Wednesday nights from April 28 to June 2. All games will be live on Sportsnet.

Toronto FC claimed last year's title, but only after thrashing a second-string Montreal side 6-1 in the final game, while the Whitecaps watched it all slip away at Saputo Stadium.

Toronto needed to win by four to knock the Caps out of top spot, and the Impact, out of the running, were resting players in advance of their league meeting with Vancouver 36 hours later.

This year, the Whitecaps are playing in the final three games.

"We should have won it last year but that didn't go that way," said Caps head coach Teitur Thordarson, whose club hosts Montreal on May 5 and Toronto on May 19 before wrapping up the tournament with a pair of road games.

"I don't know what is best with the schedule. We have our two home games in the beginning, so that's interesting a bit. We'll have to see how it looks when the league [USSF D2] schedule comes out.

"There's no doubt from our side that this tournament has a high priority. We have a fantastic rivalry and games have been intense and equal."

Except for the 6-1 game. That result sparked a nationwide debate on coaching ethics within this tournament format. CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli said the format was reviewed and maintained, but that the CSA's directive to teams was to dress their best lineups.

Impact head coach Marc Dos Santos, meanwhile, reiterated that it was a scheduling issue, not one of values.

"The fact that we had two games apart by 36 hours, the only thing you learn from that is don't do that again," he said. "Make sure you arrange the schedule in a way we can respect both competitions."

Montreal is involved in the first three games of this year's Nutrilite tournament, and not the finale.

The USSF D2 schedule [formerly USL-1] is expected to follow in the next few days. Both Vancouver and Montreal are in USSF D2, while Toronto FC plays in the top-tier Major League Soccer. Vancouver joins MLS in 2011.

mweber@theprovince.com
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