Mention the Amway Canadian Championship to Vancouver Whitecaps FC fans and you’ll not evoke too many happy memories. Some will even talk of a curse. The 'Caps have never won the competition, finishing as runners-up in five of the last six seasons and with a string of bad-beat tales to tell in the process.
Vancouver will have a chance to try and change all of that on Wednesday at BC Place, as they take on Montreal Impact in the second leg of their finals series. The 'Caps head into the match with a slight advantage after scoring two road goals in the first leg, but know that they will have to avoid the plethora of mistakes of years past.
Originally created by the fans in 2002 to annually reward the best Canadian team in the USL First Division, the Voyageurs Cup took on a new life in 2008 when the Canadian Soccer Association created the Canadian Championship. The winner not only lifted the trophy, but clinched a CONCACAF Champions League place in the process.
Vancouver's time in the tournament reads as a catalogue of near misses:
2009 – This was the year it all started going wrong for Vancouver. With the competition still in a round robin group format, the USL Whitecaps had beaten Toronto FC 2-0 at home and were sitting pretty at the top of the group with nine points. A struggling TFC side, containing current Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson, had to go to the Impact and win by four or more goals. Montreal fielded a reserve team, Toronto won 6-1 and Vancouver were left fuming. 'Caps fans still remember the incident today with a huge “Je Me Souviens” banner at home games between the two sides. The phrase is the official motto of Quebec and means “I Remember."
2011 – Now a four-team knockout tournament, Vancouver reached the final against Toronto in their first season as an MLS side. After a 1-1 home draw in the first leg, an Eric Hassli goal had Vancouver looking comfortable in the second leg in Toronto, only for the match to be abandoned in the 60th minute after the referee deemed the pitch unplayable following a lightning storm and desire from the home side for an abandonment. Vancouver again took the lead when the match was eventually replayed five weeks later, but ended up losing the game 2-1.
2012 and 2013 – Vancouver made the final in both years, losing at Toronto in 2012 to an 83rd-minute goal and then crashing out to an 84th-minute away goal at home to Montreal a year later with the game looking won.
2014 – The 'Caps fielded a very young side, including several teenagers, against a big spending and strong Toronto side. A highly credible 2-1 first leg defeat in the semifinal was turned around by Vancouver by the same scoreline in the second leg, sending the match to extra time before the Whitecaps FC eventually crashed out 5-3 on penalties.
It's quite the history, and one man who has seen it all with Whitecaps FC in that time is Homegrown midfielder Russell Teibert. The 22-year-old Canadian has been with Vancouver since joining their Residency program in 2008 and although it’s starting to sound like a well-worn phrase that this year might be the ‘Caps year, he is confident that it’s finally going to happen.
“We've had some struggles in this tournament in years in the past but we're confident going in this year," Teibert feels. "It's a new year, a new opportunity. The team's on a high right now. The team's confident, we're dangerous and we need to take all the things we've done this season into the Canadian Championship and I think we'll come out victorious."
Editor's note: This story was originally published on August 11, 2015.
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