VANCOUVER, BC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC are set to begin their run in the 10th edition of the Canadian Championship as they host Montreal Impact in the semifinal first leg on Tuesday, May 23 at BC Place at 7 p.m. PT. (Tickets still available.)
KICKOFF: 7 p.m. PT │ TV: TSN │ RADIO: TSN 1410
The quest for Canadian soccer supremacy ends with the victor lifting the Voyageurs Cup, after a competition featuring a pan-Canadian lineup including Whitecaps FC, Toronto FC, and Montreal Impact, in addition to Ottawa Fury FC of the USL, and FC Edmonton of the NASL.
In addition, the team that hoists the Voyageurs Cup in 2017 will face last year’s winners Toronto FC in a knockout match to determine Canada’s representatives in the 2017-18 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, the continental competition that pits the top clubs from across North America, Central America and the Caribbean against each other to determine continental club superiority. If Toronto FC repeat as Canadian Champions, they get the automatic bid.
The 'Caps hope to ride the momentum off Saturday's victory - their fifth in their last eight MLS matches - and translate their recent strong showing in league play into Canadian Championship success. Meanwhile, Montreal are coming off a strong 4-1 victory against 10-men Portland Timbers.
Vancouver are also currently going through one of the most demanding portions of the club’s MLS regular season with this Canadian Championship game being the second of three home games in a span of eight days, and four games in 10 days overall. After Tuesday’s all-Canadian clash, the ‘Caps host D.C. United at BC Place on Saturday, May 27 before flying to Montreal three days later for the return leg of the semifinal at Stade Saputo.
This year’s competition debuts the new Canadian Content rule that requires each side to field at least three Canadian citizens in the starting lineup. Both sides have a depth of Canadian talent. The tournament’s all-time leader in appearances, Russell Teibert, is among those expected to see the field. Ben McKendry, who made his MLS debut earlier this season and has impressed in USL play, may also get the call.
Also eligible to play are Whitecaps FC 2 players Gloire Amanda, Matthew Baldisimo, Sem de Wit, Sean Melvin, David Norman Jr., and Deklan Wynne, who have been named to the 23-man roster for Tuesday’s fixture.
Impact looking to kickstart their season
Montreal are going to be looking to put up a strong performance on Tuesday night as they aim to put a difficult start to the MLS season behind them. The team currently sits tied for ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 13 points after only three wins in 11 games played and having conceded 18 goals to opposition play, the tied for second-most goals against in the conference.
But the Quebec side remains a threat, particularly on the counter-attack with a balanced squad of experience and youth in the always-dangerous Argentinian midfielder Nacho Piatti and 23-year-old Canadian forward Anthony Jackson Hamel, who have combined for 10 goals on the year. The ‘Caps back four will also need to keep an eye on the fleet-footed 18-year-old Ivorian-Canadian Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla who’s had a big impact on the squad’s offensive play since making the jump from USL play this year. Tabla is currently second on the team for most shots on goal this season. With a number of options, and the factor that the three aforementioned players started on Saturday, it will be interesting how head coach Mauro Biello will choose his lineup for Tuesday's match.
It should be noted that the Voyageurs Cup is also a very familiar beast for this Montreal side. Biello’s team has lifted the trophy three times in their history and in 2015 made it to the CONCACAF Champions League final, being only the second MLS team in history to manage the feat.
Bittersweet history for the ‘Caps
The ‘Caps boast a respectable record of 13W-8L-11D in Canadian Championship play, especially considering that of the team’s nine tourney participations, they’ve won it all once and finished second in seven different years.
But for Whitecaps FC fans, the tournament still represents a mixed bag of emotions.
On the one hand, Carl Robinson’s men made a thrilling run in the competition back in 2015, defeating the very same Montreal Impact 4-2 on aggregate to claim the club’s first ever Canadian Championship title. That win punched the Blue and White’s ticket to their second ever CONCACAF Champions League run where they fell one game short of the final, losing to Mexican giants Tigres UANL last February.
More recently however, ‘Caps fans will remember all too well the heartbreaking result of last year’s Canadian Championship final. Despite a 1-0 opening leg loss to an impressive TFC side, Vancouver managed to rally in the second leg at BC Place with a strong second-half push to take a momentary aggregate goal lead thanks to goals by Nicolás Mezquida and Tim Parker before former TFC midfielder and Canadian national team player Will Johnson scored the added-time aggregate equalizer, to give Toronto their fifth Voyageurs Cup on the away goal tiebreaker.
Tuesday will be give the 'Caps a chance to showcase their young Canadian talent, while at the same time aiming to reclaim the Cup they hoisted in 2015.