A meeting of two Canadian clubs with similar MLS stories this season
Since their season-opening encounter on March 19, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC have followed a similar path through their first 10 MLS matches. After the ‘Caps first win in franchise history that day - a 4-2 win over The Reds on Bell Pitch at Empire Field - both clubs have struggled to find any sort of consistency or momentum.
The comparison between these two clubs on the pitch to date is stunning, with the two Canadian outfits looking like identical twins rather than fierce rivals. In fact, the evidence below demonstrates that the two teams have been beyond just identical brethren, but rather more like Siamese twins.
To begin, Whitecaps FC have gone winless in their past 10 games and currently sit at the bottom of the MLS Western Conference standings. TFC have equally struggled, going winless in MLS play during the month of April to find themselves in the bottom third of the league's Eastern Conference standings.
While both sides have struggled in the win column, further statistics show the squads are connected on a much deeper basis. The first major connection worth noting is the 'Goals For/Goals Against' category, which shows the 'Caps at 12 goals for and 16 goals against, while Toronto FC is at 11 goals for and 17 goals against. Furthermore, if we compare the 'Goal Differential' category, we find that they are at minus four and minus six respectively. Each squad has played 11 games so far, both scoring at a rate of 1.09 goals-per-game, while only varying slightly in goals-against average: 1.45 to 1.55 in favour of Whitecaps FC.
The second noticeable trend between these squads takes root in the fact that both sides are winless on the road in MLS. Whitecaps FC are currently 0W-4L-1D this season away from Empire Field, while The Reds are 0W-3L-1D away from BMO Field. Vancouver have picked up seven out of their eight points at Empire Field, while Toronto have obtained 10 out of 11 points at home. If either team is able to sneak away with a result on the road in this Nutrilite Canadian Championship (NCC) final series, it could prove to be a major advantage.
Statistics suggest a close relation, but the biggest bond between Whitecaps FC and TFC has been their exceptionally busy schedules throughout the early portion of their campaigns, with fatigue inevitably beginning to play a factor. For Whitecaps FC, their match on April 6 against New England Revolution kick-started an 11-match schedule in 43 days, equivalent to one match every 3.91 days. The busy stretch continues on May 25 when the ‘Caps play three of their next four games on the road (at Toronto FC, versus New York Red Bulls, at Chivas USA, at Real Salt Lake). During that stretch of four matches in 11 days, Whitecaps FC play on average one match every 2.75 days. The Reds, by comparison, have also been playing through a busy spell, launching their own 11-match run in 40 days on April 9 against San Jose Earthquakes, which is a rate of one match per 3.64 days. TFC will also increase their own marathon pace when they play their next four games in a span of 14 days, which is one match per 3.50 days.
This Nutrilite Canadian Championship final series looks to be an even affair, and it is difficult to tell who is the favourite. Toronto FC enters as back-to-back Voyageurs Cup winners, looking to cement their place as the tournament’s dominant team by becoming Canadian champions for a third straight time. The 'Caps, meanwhile, respond by laying claim to the fact that they have gone undefeated in NCC play during their past nine games (4W-0L-5D) and are undefeated at home to TFC with a record of two wins and two draws since 2008.
With the first leg between these two clubs starting on Wednesday night at Empire Field, some of these trends will have to give. The only question remaining is, who will break first?