This year marks the sixth edition of the Amway Canadian Championship, as the professional club teams of our country battle for the Voyageurs Cup and a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. It is a championship that has so far eluded Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and it has been taken away in some unpleasant and extraordinary circumstances.
Normally we’d look at the history of events in chronological order, but this tournament has developed a strange phenomenon, with rather incredible events occurring every second year.
While defeat in the Canadian Championship has been rather ordinary in even years (2008, 2010 and 2012), the circumstances in odd years have been just that …odd.
What happened in 2009 and 2011 you could never make up. All teams have to overcome tough losses; you can lose on player’s mistakes, referee’s mistakes, unlucky bounces, or just good play from the opposition. But the way the ‘Caps were denied the Voyageurs Cup in those two years could only make you shake your head and try to explain what really could not be explained.
2009: Heartbreak from tiebreak
The ‘Caps started the tournament off with their first ever loss to TFC at BMO Field, but they appeared to turn around their fortunes by the end of their run of games, earning a 2-0 home win against the Reds to all but secure their first Canadian Championship. The problem for the ‘Caps was that there was still one match to be played, a match in which they had no part.
If Toronto were to defeat Montreal in the final game they’d tie Vancouver on points, and the tiebreak was goal difference (and not head-to-head results, or goal difference amongst the tied teams only). This scenario had Vancouver winning the title unless TFC could beat Montreal Impact by at least four goals. However, the Impact had nothing to play for. The result was an exceptionally odd match. One team was fighting tooth and nail to get a big win, while the other team couldn’t be bothered to stop them.
Things looked like they might go the ‘Caps way after the Impact's Tony Donatelli (a former Whitecaps FC player) made it 1-0 at Stade Saputo on a penalty kick. The cushion was now five goals for Whitecaps FC. But then, just before the half-hour mark, Dwayne De Rosario scored his first of three goals to kick off an incredible finale. Toronto FC scored six goals in all, including the fifth by Chad Barrett that turned out to be the competition winner.
Toronto FC were crowned Canadian champions, much to the disappointment of the stunned runners-up Vancouver Whitecaps FC – who were actually in attendance to witness the madness, as they faced Montreal in a match that weekend. It’s hard to imagine a more agonizing way to lose a title. But then again…
2011: Rain, rain, go away
The 2011 Amway Canadian Championship featured a fourth team and a new format, with the switch from the familiar round robin group to a knockout style semifinal and final series.
The new team on the block was FC Edmonton in the second division – where the ‘Caps used to play. The Albertan side were matched up against Toronto FC in one of two opening series; the other opening series featured Vancouver Whitecaps FC against Montreal Impact.
Vancouver and Toronto would both prevail in their semifinal series to advance to the finals, where they would meet in a two-legged championship. Finally, a format where the ‘Caps could truly control their own destiny from start to finish…or so we thought.
The first match was in Vancouver and ended in a 1-1 draw, with Eric Hassli scoring for Vancouver. The second leg was played in Toronto a week later.
Vancouver came out strong and scored in the first half on a Hassli goal. The game was being dominated by the ‘Caps and with less than 30 minutes to go, they were again on the verge of claiming the Voyageurs Cup for the first time. Destiny, apparently, dictated otherwise.
With heavy rain flooding the field and lightning sparking down towards the stands, the conditions were deemed too dangerous to play and the match was abandoned, with the rules stating that it had to be rescheduled and replayed in its entirety – nullifying the ‘Caps 1-0 advantage. Everyone on the side of Whitecaps FC were of course outraged with the decision, while TFC were all too happy to comply. Fate had dealt the ‘Caps another cruel blow.
Five weeks later the match was replayed from scratch. Vancouver got off to a good start with a brilliant free kick goal from Camilo, but TFC eventually rallied for a 2-1 victory, once again denying Whitecaps FC the glory they seemed to deserve.
Because of this strange situation, the rules of the Canadian Championship have now been amended as such:
If the match is abandoned before the completion of normal playing time because of extreme weather or for reasons outside the control of the host team, the match shall recommence with the same score at the minute at which play was interrupted.
Of course, we need not worry about that at BC Place.
But the past makes you wonder what we have to do to get our hands on that Voyageurs Cup.
It’s 2013, another odd-numbered year for the tournament. However this is the first time that we host the decisive second leg at home, so let’s just hope it doesn’t turn out odd.