Toronto rivalry set to take new form
It’s true that Canadians are polite, respectful people, but ask a Vancouverite about his or her opinion on a Toronto sports team and you might be surprised by the lack of etiquette.
On Monday, it was announced that Vancouver Whitecaps FC will host Canadian adversary Toronto FC in their inaugural Major League Soccer opener at Empire Field on March 19, adding another chapter to a coast-to-coast feud that always sparks animosity.
This will mark the first-ever MLS match between the two clubs, but it will certainly not be the first time that they’ve met. The ‘Caps have played TFC in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship the past three years and, despite playing as a D-2 club, hold the series edge against their eastern foes.
The rivalry began in 2008 with the first edition of the Canadian Championship and the second year of existence for TFC.
After struggling during their debut season in MLS, the Reds were riding high going into their game against Vancouver on a 10-match home unbeaten streak. BMO Field had become a fortress, an atmosphere that not only the fans in Toronto could be proud of, but the entire league. And on a gorgeous Canada Day, stands colored appropriately by a sea of red, the lower-league Whitecaps came to town.
Surely Vancouver - a team that had essentially already been eliminated from contention after consecutive defeats to the Montreal Impact - was no match for a TFC team backed by a frenzied home crowd.
Despite the tough conditions, Whitecaps FC were not deterred. A first-half penalty shot from Martin Nash and a heroic goalkeeping effort from Jay Nolly gave the ‘Caps a famous 1-0 victory that put an end to TFC’s home winning streak. The return match saw Vancouver earn a dramatic 2-2 draw at Swangard Stadium, costing Toronto the Canadian Championship and sending them into a tailspin that ultimately ruined their chances of making the MLS Cup playoffs.
In 2009, things continued to heat up. TFC finally edged their supposedly inferior opponents with a 1-0 victory at home to open the second edition of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. However, the ‘Caps didn't lose again in the tournament, rounding out their schedule with a thrilling 2-0 victory over Toronto at Swangard Stadium.
The result appeared to seal the championship for Vancouver, which would have earned them a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. Toronto needed to beat Montreal by no less than four goals in their final game to clinch the title, and had to do so in Montreal. After going down a goal early, Dwayne De Rosario willed TFC to a 6-1 victory, swiping the Voyageurs Cup and breaking the hearts of Whitecaps fans.
Last season, the teams battled to two hard-fought scoreless draws. While Vancouver went on to draw all four of their matches, Toronto pulled out a pair of victories over Montreal to win their second consecutive Canadian Championship title. Vancouver, meanwhile, were left to rue another missed opportunity, realizing that they would have to wait another year to have a shot at their archrivals.
Luckily, they won’t have to wait long for that shot. On March 19, Toronto will be looking to return the favor from 2008 and spoil the festivities in Vancouver, while Whitecaps FC will look to send a message and knock TFC off their perch as Canada's top club.