Jay Nolly has been in this position before. His Vancouver Whitecaps FC need a positive result on Wednesday at Toronto FC (5 p.m. PT, Rogers Sportsnet ONE, sportsnet.ca, TEAM 1410, teamradio.ca) to win the Nutrilite Canadian Championship and advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.
Nolly has started all 15 games, and played every minute for Whitecaps FC in their four-year history in the NCC tournament. This is familiar ground.
One game, though, stands out above the rest.
In the first edition of the battle for Canadian supremacy in 2008, Nolly and the then-second division Whitecaps FC - with Teitur Thordarson in his first year as head coach - traveled east to face Toronto FC in front of a hostile crowd on Canada Day (July 1) at BMO Field.
“I still have the video from that game,” said Nolly. “It was a lot of fun, but a lot of stress.”
It was the first meeting between the two clubs, and the underdog 'Caps were in a tough spot. Toronto were in the midst of a 10-match home unbeaten streak, as BMO Field was quickly developing a reputation as one of the most raucous venues on the continent.
Vancouver, meanwhile, were in desperate need of a victory to stay in contention after losing their first two tournament games against Montreal Impact.
“We were dying for a win, and we knew that we were going to have to defend well against them,” said Nolly.
The ‘Caps got off to a good start, taking a 1-0 lead into the half, but Toronto FC were determined to protect their home fort and peppered the Whitecaps FC goal with shots in the second half.
“They were a very good attacking team,” remembered Nolly. “They had guys like Maurice Edu and a bunch of guys from Europe that did very well. But we stuck together, guys were cleaning up rebounds and I made some saves.”
Not only did he make some saves, he essentially stood on his head, denying TFC time after time to preserve a famous 1-0 victory over their Canadian rivals.
“That’s definitely up there as one of my most favourite victories,” stated Nolly.
He’ll be hoping to have a new favourite after Wednesday.
Following Wednesday’s NCC match in Toronto, Whitecaps FC return home to host New York Red Bulls this Saturday, May 28, at Empire Field. Individual match tickets start at $20, plus applicable service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS(1.855.646.2277). Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. PT and will be live on TSN. ‘Caps fans can also listen to the match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca.
In addition to individual match tickets, Whitecaps FC fans also have the option of purchasing three exciting new match packs. Starting at just $159, the match pack options - GOING HOLLYWOOD, I (HEART) NY, LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR? - all include the Manchester City FC friendly match, valued at $60, and four coveted MLS matches. Aside from season tickets, which also include the Manchester City game, match packs are currently the only way to secure a ticket to the July 18 international friendly. For additional information on match packs, visit whitecapsfc.com/matchpacks.