For four seasons, Vancouver Whitecaps FC have made it a priority to win the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. On Saturday, they showed just how important that is.
Looking ahead to the first leg of the NCC final at home to Toronto FC on Wednesday, head coach Teitur Thordarson fielded a young, reserve-laden squad in a 1-0 loss against New England Revolution.
“I expected a tough game, absolutely,” Thordarson said. “[But] I think the team performed fantastically well with these younger players on board. I’m very happy with the young guys.”
Neither team could create many clear scoring chances throughout the game, but after a slow start Vancouver looked the more dangerous attacking team for the latter stages of the first half. However, the ‘Caps found themselves chasing the game in the second half when New England converted a penalty kick in the 49th minute.
“I think we had a really good first half,” goalkeeper Jay Nolly said. “We were energized. I felt like we were creating chances and doing really well. We had a really young roster out there, but I don’t think you saw that. We were playing well, and I think if they had gotten that penalty and we had fallen off, that would have been a huge disappointment for us, but we kept pushing forward.”
Despite the effort, Vancouver couldn’t find an equalizer as their MLS winless streak stretched to 10 games. They’ll have to move on quickly, though, with their big match against Toronto FC in only four days' time.
“That’s our immediate goal right now, to win the Nutrilite [Canadian Championship],” emphasized Nolly. “It’s two games, home and away. If we win that, that’ll be huge for our mentality going into the rest of the season.”
They’ll go into the midweek match knowing they can count on captain Jay DeMerit, who started his first match since April 10 against Houston Dynamo and played 64 minutes before subbing off. The United States international is working his way back to full fitness, but Vancouver’s defence already looked stronger with him on.
“We decided before that he would play 60 to 65 minutes today,” said Thordarson. “It was very nice to see him get through that. Not only did he do well individually, but he kept the backline together and pushed the people in front of him also very well.”
Said DeMerit: “It’s good to get a voice in there. In order to be the team we want to be, we have to stay organized, stay solid in the right areas, and be more clinical in both boxes. That organization is something I bring to the table.”
There’s no questioning the fight of Vancouver, but if they hope to finally hoist the Voyageurs Cup as Canadian champions, they’ll need all of their best players available. Expect to see a much stronger line-up come Wednesday, and expect DeMerit to be leading the way.
“You’ve got to say the hard things, too,” DeMerit said. “We need to start getting some results because there are a lot of positive things going to waste and that’s not good enough.”