OTTAWA, ONT – After 13 years of heartbreak, Vancouver Whitecaps FC won their first-ever Voyageurs Cup as the top team in Canada in 2015.
Now, they want to keep it.
The ‘Caps kick off the 2016 Amway Canadian Championship on Wednesday in the nation’s capital, visiting Ottawa Fury FC in the first leg of the semifinal.
KICKOFF: 4:30 p.m. PT | TV: TSN 1 | RADIO: TSN 1410
“It’s always more difficult to defend it than win it the first time,” said Whitecaps FC assistant coach Martyn Pert. “But we want to put a real effort into getting the title and keeping it in Vancouver.”
“It was nice to hold the trophy in our place last year,” added defender Jordan Harvey. “Having a taste of that feeling, we want to do it again.”
Whitecaps FC will host the second leg of the semifinal next Wednesday at BC Place.
The team that scores the greater number of goals between the two matches will advance to the tournament final against Toronto FC or Montreal Impact (away goals are the first tiebreaker).
Here’s everything you need to know about Wednesday’s match.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC
The ‘Caps, who have submitted a 20-man roster for the semifinal first leg, are expected to field a younger side on Wednesday.
“We’re going to take this game seriously,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson, “but there are a number of banged up players and a number of players missing.”
With that in mind, Robinson confirmed that 15-year-old WFC2 forward Alphonso Davies will be involved at some stage (this year, clubs are allowed to call-up USL and academy players). Midfielder Ben McKendry, the lone Vancouverite on Whitecaps FC’s MLS roster, could also make his first-team debut.
“I’m ecstatic,” McKendry told reporters this week. “It’s exciting for me, it’s exciting for my family, but at the end of the day it’s the same game. Ottawa is a good team. It should be a good match and I’m excited to get involved.”
OTTAWA FURY FC
This is the first time that Ottawa Fury FC have reached the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals, as well as the first time they will face Major League Soccer opposition. It’s a massive occasion for the club, so one would assume they won’t leave anything on the pitch come Wednesday.
“Coach always says these players want to be in your shoes and they have something to prove,” said Kekuta Manneh, who played under Fury head coach Paul Dalglish at Austin Aztex. “We have to match their intensity.”
Ottawa secured their semifinal berth by defeating fellow North American Soccer League (NASL) side FC Edmonton 3-2 on aggregate in the two-leg preliminary round.
The Fury were founded in 2005, beginning play in the USL’s Premier Development League. In 2014, the team then made its debut in the NASL, which is classified as the second division of professional soccer in North America, where they compete today.
Last year, Ottawa won the NASL fall championship and reached the Soccer Bowl before falling to New York Cosmos in the postseason championship final.
Both teams will be missing some key pieces on Wednesday.
The ‘Caps are without Costa Rican duo Kendall Waston and Christian Bolanos and Panamanian striker Blas Perez, who are set to represent their nations at the upcoming Copa America Centenario.
Meanwhile, Ottawa’s Julian de Guzman and Marcel de Jong have been called up to the Canadian senior men’s national team. De Guzman, who was the first Canadian to play in the Spanish La Liga, captains both Fury FC and the Canadian national team.
This will be the first-ever meeting between the two clubs.
That said, there are several different connections that bring the two teams together. Notably, Fury FC assistant coach and assistant general manager Martin Nash (brother of 'Caps co-owner and former NBA star Steve Nash) spent 10 seasons with Vancouver at the second division level.
WHAT IS THE AMWAY CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP?
The Amway Canadian Championship is a five-team tournament that crowns the top team in Canada. In addition to qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League, the winner also takes home the supporters-created Voyageurs Cup (which was first awarded in 2002).
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