TORONTO - It will be interesting to see how the opposing coaches approach the final of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, which kicked off late Wednesday night in Vancouver.
Clearly Vancouver Whitecaps bench boss Teitur Thordarson is going to throw out his best lineup against Toronto FC ó knowing his expansion Major League Soccer side has no chance of making an impact in league play this season.
To that end he rested many key players in a recent 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution.
New Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter has maintained that ó unlike his predecessor Preki ó he will not give preference to league matches over Canadian Championship or CONCACAF Champions League games.
Though Winter continues to remind everyone that his side is rebuilding, he knows there is still pressure to get to the playoffs for the first time.
With a tough road match looming against defending champion Colorado on Saturday and a big game at home against the Philadelphia Union three days after Toronto hosts Vancouver next week, Winter wonít be able to field his best for both games. That is a recipe for disaster on the injury front.
Leading scorer Alan Gordon didnít make the trip to Vancouver but should be ready to play against Colorado.
Preki watered down his lineup substantially for non-league games last season, but TFC managed to with the Canadian title and advance to the group stage of the CONCACAF tourney by beating CD Motagua of Honduras.
No matter who plays for the Reds or Whitecaps, the odds of a Canadian club advancing very far are not good.
The opposition should be a lot stronger. The TFC-Vancouver winner will have to beat whoever wins the Nicaraguan championship.
Walter Ferretti leads Real Esteli 1-0 after one leg and they will meet again this weekend to decide who advances.
The reward for advancing to the group stage by beating the Nicaraguan champion would be placement in a group with Tauro FC of Panama, either FC Dallas or Alianza ó the top team in El Salvador ó plus an always dangerous Mexican side, either Morelia or Pumas UNAM.
Last year, TFC competed very well in the group stage despite not always having its top players active, but this time around, the Canadian champion would likely be considered a heavy underdog against any of this yearís opponents.
FC Dallas made the MLS Cup last season, losing to Colorado, and has looked good again this season despite a run of injuries.
Whoever prevails between TFC and Vancouver will host the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League in late July against the Nicaraguan winner.
Besides Dallas and Toronto or Vancouver, MLS also is represented by the Los Angeles Galaxy, Colorado Rapids and the Seattle Sounders.
Real Salt Lake tried to become the first MLS team to win the tournament, marching all the way to the final, before falling to Monterrey last month.