BURNABY, BC – A trophy, national bragging rights and a chance to qualify for the continents top tournament.
That’s what’s up for grabs for Vancouver Whitecaps FC as they take on Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship finals, starting with the first leg at BC Place on Wednesday night (7 p.m. PT, Sportsnet).
“I don’t think it matters if it’s the Disney cup or the Canadian cup, we want to win it,” head coach Martin Rennie told reporters after a training session at Swangard Stadium this week. “We’re in the final now and that’s our absolute focus – is doing everything we can to win it.”
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The final represents an opportunity for the club to pick up its first meaningful silverware of the MLS era, and the potential of playing in the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time.
“It’s important for us to get our first real trophy,” captain Jay DeMerit said. “We obviously had the little one this preseason, but as a club it’s hugely important and a huge goal of ours as a club to get that trophy and most importantly be the best team in Canada.”
The Canadian Championship is a sort of unholy grail for Vancouver. They’ve nearly sipped from the Voyageurs Cup on two occasions only to be denied by near unfathomable circumstances.
First there was 2009, as the second-division edition of the club had all but won the competition. Going into the final day, Vancouver led the table with nine points and a four-goal advantage over second place Toronto FC, who had six points.
In order for the Reds to lift the trophy, they had to beat the Montreal Impact by five goals at Saputo Stadium. And – somehow, some way, that actually happened, as Toronto came from behind to defeat Montreal 6-1 on the night.
Last season’s final proved equally frustrating for the ‘Caps. Leading 2-1 on aggregate with 30 minutes to play in the tie, Vancouver were on the brink of securing their first Canadian Championship when the skies opened up and flooded BMO Field.
A nearby lightning storm combined with the marsh-like conditions caused by the torrential rain forced the match officials to postpone the match, and when it was eventually replayed a week later, Toronto came out on top, lifting the trophy with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.
New boy Sébastien Le Toux, who tops the club’s scoring charts with five goals in all competitions, said it’s best to throw that background out the window come Wednesday night.
“We don’t think about last year,” Le Toux said. “Our mindset, since the beginning – if you think too much about last year we’d be last in the standings right now. The mindset is, every time we play a game, is to win it. It doesn’t matter if it’s home or away – try to come with this mentality."
The French forward also believes the best plan of attack in the first leg is, well, attack.
“Sometimes it’s 1-0 and we’ll be hoping to score more goals, but in the first leg, especially playing at home, we want to come on them and try to show them we’re here,” Le Toux said. “Maybe they’re coming to defend, but the most important [thing] for us is to score goals and win the game.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com