By Jim Morris
BURNABY, B.C. — It's a game the Vancouver Whitecaps must win, but the pressure and expectations will be on Toronto FC when the teams clash Tuesday night in what could be the deciding game in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.
Toronto is Canada's lone team in Major League Soccer. The league has more prestige and big-name players than the United Soccer Leagues' first division, of which the Whitecaps are the defending champions.
"Being the team from MLS, everyone is expecting us to win," Toronto midfielder Dwayne De Rosario said Monday. "I think the city (Toronto) is looking for us to bring some silverware. We mean business."
Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi didn't hesitate to paint his team with the underdog brush.
"There is more pressure on them than there is on us," said Lenarduzzi. "They are expected to win, we are not. The pressure is firmly on their shoulders."
Toronto needs just a draw in the game (10:30 p.m. ET) to claim the Nutrilite crown. The Whitecaps must beat Toronto, then get some help from the Montreal Impact.
That makes the match very simple, said Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly.
"We know what we have to do, we have to win," said Nolly. "We can't let it come down to a tie. We want to put some pressure on them going back into Montreal, making sure they have to score a few goals and earn it in the end.
"It's pretty cut and dry for us. We just have to go out there and get a win."
Toronto coach Chris Cummins said his side isn't interested in playing it safe and looking for a draw.
"We're not the type of team that sits back and says a point will do us," said Cummins. "We don't do that. We will be looking to get the result we are looking for.
"It's a game we are taking very seriously."
The winner of the three-team, six-game tournament receives the Voyageurs Cup trophy and a berth in the preliminary round of the CONCACAF Champions League.
The Impact won last year's national crown and reached the quarter-final stage of the regional tournament.
Toronto (2-0-0) and Vancouver (2-1-0) both have six points and are tied with a goal differential of plus two. The Impact (0-2-0) are out of the running for the championship, but still could prove the spoiler.
If the Whitecaps win Tuesday's game, Toronto must win their June 18 game in Montreal and finish the tournament with a better goal differential than Vancouver.
De Rosario said Toronto doesn't consider the Whitecaps an inferior team.
"We can't look at Vancouver as a team being in another division," said the Canadian international. "They earned the right to be here and they are going to come out and compete for every ball.
"We have to match their intensity. I don't think them being an USL team and us being MLS makes any difference. If we do look at it that way, we could be in a for a long game. We're going to go in and play like it's a Cup game and take it very serious."
Toronto defeated Vancouver 1-0 at BMO Field on May 6 and also beat Montreal at home 1-0 on May 13.
The Whitecaps won 2-0 on May 20 in Montreal, then earned a 1-0 win last week over the Impact at Swangard Stadium.
The Whitecaps will play Tuesday's match without captain Martin Nash, who received his second yellow card of the tournament in last week's win over Montreal.
Toronto's leading scorer, Amado Guevara of Honduras, and speedy American defender Marvell Wynne will miss the match because of international duty, while forward O'Brian White is questionable with a knee injury.
Both teams enter the match coming off of away losses in league play Saturday night.
Vancouver fell 2-0 to Portland while Toronto was beaten 3-0 by Houston.
Cummins said his team knows they didn't play well against Houston.
"What it gives us is a chance to put that right," he said. "The lads have got a point to prove."
The Whitecaps sit sixth in the 11-team USL first division with 11 points from a 3-3-2 record. Toronto is in a three-way tie for second place in the MLS's Eastern Division with 16 points from a 4-4-4 record.
The Whitecaps, who will join MLS in 2011,collected four points from Toronto during last year's tournament, winning 1-0 in Toronto and drawing 2-2 at home
Lenarduzzi said Tuesday's game will feed the growing rivalry between the teams.
"It's a pre-cursor to MLS in 2011," he said. "There is going to be a rivalry between the two clubs and what we have tomorrow night is our first chance at a meaningful game with something very significant at stake."
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