Looking to win their first Voyageurs Cup title, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-0L-2D) travel to Southern Ontario to face Major League Soccer rivals Toronto FC (2W-0L-1D) at BMO Field in the decisive second leg of the 2011 Nutrilite Canadian Championship (NCC) final on Wednesday evening.
Teitur Thordarson's side need to score at least once in the second leg to cancel out TFC's away goal from last week's first leg in Vancouver and boost their chances of winning the four-club competition. The Blue and White have had a week to prepare for Wednesday's match, while The Reds were in MLS action on Sunday. The NCC winners will face Nicaragua's Real Esteli FC in the Preliminary Round of the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) in late July and early August. Real Esteli qualified for the CCL after a 3-2 aggregate success over Deportivo Walter Ferreti in the two-leg Nicaraguan Primera Division 'Clausura' final.
Wednesday's Nutrilite Canadian Championship final, second leg, between Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC from BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario, kicks off at 5 p.m. PT and is live on Rogers Sportsnet ONE and on sportsnet.ca. 'Caps fans can also listen to Wednesday's match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 3 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 7 p.m. PT.
NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP
Unlike the first three editions of the competition - in which Whitecaps FC, Toronto FC, and Montreal Impact contested the Voyageurs Cup in a round-robin format - this year's competition has been contested by four Canadian clubs. Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal were joined by FC Edmonton, who are playing their inaugural season in the second-tier NASL. As a result, the tournament was modified to a home-and-away semifinal stage followed by a home-and-away championship final series. In the semifinals, Whitecaps FC needed extra time to defeat Montreal 2-1 on aggregate, while Toronto FC made easy work of FC Edmonton with a 4-0 aggregate victory. As the highest-seeded team in the final, Toronto FC chose to open the final in Vancouver last week before hosting the second leg on Wednesday.
During this two-match final series, if both clubs are level on aggregate over the two games, the 'Away Goals' rule will be used to determine the series winner (ie: the club that scores the most goals on the road over the two games). If the 'Away Goals' rule does not produce a result (ie: both teams have scored the same number of goals at home and away), then two 15-minute periods of extra time will be played at the end of the second leg. If, during extra time, both teams score the same number of goals, the visiting team will win the series on the strength of the number of 'Away Goals' they have scored in the extra-time period. If no goals are scored during extra time, the series will then be determined with a penalty shootout.
The winners of the 2011 Nutrilite Canadian Championship not only claim the Voyageurs Cup and bragging rights as Canada's top club, they will also represent Canada in the 2011-12 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, where they will play the top clubs in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The winners of the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League title will then represent the confederation at the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup.
After playing matches every three or four days for the past weeks, Whitecaps FC have had a week to assess and prepare for this crucial second leg in Toronto, as they were idle from MLS action over the Victoria Day weekend. This allowed Thordarson's squad to earn some much-needed rest and recovery after a very busy schedule of league and Voyageurs Cup games. The 'Caps will also be encouraged by their performance against TFC in the first leg, having created several quality goalscoring chances at Empire Field.
Wednesday's match at BMO Field will be the first at TFC's home for several Whitecaps FC players, including midfielder Terry Dunfield. The Vancouver native will be keen to familiarize himself with the surroundings, as he will have the chance to dawn Canada's colours at the stadium in a friendly against Ecuador on the following Wednesday. On Monday, Dunfield was called up to Stephen Hart's Canada squad for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which runs from June 5 to 25 in the United States.
Like their foes from Canada's west coast, Toronto FC have been juggling a busy schedule of league and NCC games, with their schedule having impacted on the fitness of Aron Winter's squad. Though they performed well in a goalless draw at Colorado Rapids on Sunday, the Dutchman has been challenged by injuries to some key players in recent weeks.
A groin injury to striker Alan Gordon saw the experienced MLS campaigner miss the team's trip to Vancouver and Colorado, while injuries to midfielders Jacob Peterson (ankle) and Tony Tchani (knee) meant the pair were unavailable to face Colorado on the weekend. It remains to be seen if the trio will be in Winter's selection plans for Wednesday, though TFC will be boosted by having a fresh Julian de Guzman available after the Canadian international sat out the Colorado game through suspension. After sitting out the first leg in Vancouver, Javier Martina and Mikael Yourassowsky put in solid performances against the Rapids and should be in strong consideration to face the 'Caps.
TFC will be without midfielder Elbekay Bouchiba (knee), while fellow midfielder Gianluca Zavarise (adductor strain) is listed as questionable.
Wednesday's second leg will be the ninth all-time meeting between Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC. Before their MLS clash on March 19, the first six meetings came in the last three editions of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship when Vancouver was a North American second division club. Since 2008, Whitecaps FC have amassed a favourable record of three wins, one defeat, and four draws versus TFC. This includes a record of one win, one defeat, and one draw versus The Reds in Toronto. Following Wednesday's NCC second leg at BMO Field, Whitecaps FC will return to Southern Ontario to face Aron Winter's side in MLS action on Wednesday, June 29.
BLUE & WHITE IN TORONTO
Vancouver's goalless draw at TFC in the NCC last season took the club's all-time record of results in Toronto to 11 wins, 17 defeats, and four draws. Between 1974 and 2010, the 'Caps have played no less than seven different Toronto-based clubs.
In the days of the North American Soccer League, Whitecaps FC had three wins and six defeats in away matches versus Toronto Metros, Toronto Metros-Croatia, and Toronto Blizzard between 1974 and 1984. In the Canadian Soccer League years of 1987 to 1992, Vancouver had one win, four defeats, and three draws versus the CSL's Blizzard in Toronto, while in the American Professional Soccer League, the club won and lost twice on the road to the Blizzard in 1993 and Toronto Rockets in 1994.
Vancouver's more recent exploits with Southern Ontario opposition came in the form of ex-United Soccer Leagues First Division club Toronto Lynx between 1998 and 2006. Though Whitecaps FC hold the all-time set of results, they recorded four wins and four defeats versus the Lynx in Toronto during that time.
BACK TO MLS ACTION
Following Wednesday's NCC final, second leg, Whitecaps FC return home to face Eastern Conference club New York Red Bulls in MLS action on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff from Empire Field is set for 2:30 p.m. PT. Individual match tickets start at $20, plus applicable service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277). Visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets for more information on individual match tickets for the club's inaugural MLS season.
Whitecaps FC's home match versus New York Red Bulls will be live on TSN and Bell mobile devices at 2:30 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to the May 28 contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 12:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 4:30 p.m. PT.
Whitecaps FC fans now have the option of purchasing three exciting new match packs. Starting at just $159, the match pack options - GOING HOLLYWOOD, I (HEART) NY, LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR? - all include the Manchester City FC friendly match, valued at $60, and four coveted MLS matches. Aside from season tickets, which also include the Manchester City game, match packs are currently the only way to secure a ticket to the July 18 international friendly. For additional information on match packs, visit whitecapsfc.com/matchpacks.