By Eric Koreen
TORONTO -- Teitur Thordarson has coached in Sweden, Norway and his native Iceland, and played in a host of other countries.
But on Canada Day last year, this country earned a special place in the scrapbook of the Vancouver Whitecaps coach. That is the day the Whitecaps, a USL First Division club, beat Toronto FC, a club from the higher Major League Soccer, in Toronto.
"It is one of the greatest experiences I've had on a football field," Thordarson said. "And I've experienced quite a lot."
The win came in the inaugural Nutrilite Canadian Championship. The second edition kicks off Wednesday with Vancouver returning to Toronto. The tournament also features the USL's Montreal Impact.
The three teams will play in a double round-robin format, with each team hosting the others once. The winner will advance to the CONCACAF Championships League.
Montreal won the competition last year in an upset, considering Toronto's higher stature. The Impact then advanced to the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF tournament, and drew more than 55,000 people to Olympic Stadium for a game against in February against Mexican side Santos Laguna.
"The tournament is big because of Champions League and what Montreal accomplished and did this year," Vancouver's Martin Nash said. "It kind of opens everybody's eyes up a little bit more, more so than last year. CONCACAF is a great competition to play in."
With MLS coming to Vancouver in 2011, and Toronto having the Rogers Centre nearby to go along with a rabid fan base, the prospect of a few games in the winter is not only intriguing, but potentially profitable as well.
"If we can get some more games on the board for the fans, then I'm sure they're going to fill any stadium that we play in," TFC coach Chris Cummins said.
This year's tournament has some added meaning, and not just because of the Impact's CONCACAF run. Toronto's biggest two off-season acquisitions, forward Dwayne De Rosario and defender Adrian Serioux, are veterans with the Canadian national team. And Montreal's surprising performance last year did do a lot to frustrate Toronto. The club promises it will not be caught by surprise by either team.
"We were obviously disappointed. But if you look at Vancouver and you look at Montreal, they're both good teams," Cummins said. "It's the same in any cup competition.
"You are only as good as you are on that day. The [league a team plays in] goes out the window a little bit."
"Montreal, after qualifying through Nutrilite, they did very well in CONCACAF," Thordarson said. "So did Puerto Rico, also. I think that says it all about the quality of the USL-1. As I see it, there is a certain difference between the quality of the USL-1 and the MLS.
"But I definitely think that our teams have shown that they are not far away."