|Toronto FC players celebrate after they defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps to win the Canadian Championship final in July 2011. (REUTERS)
TORONTO - A rematch of last year’s Canadian Cup final should be viewed as a win-win situation for Toronto supporters.
Whichever way tonight’s opening leg ends at BC Place, the two-match series will conclude the year-long lamenting by some Vancouverites who refuse to recognize TFC as the rightful Voyageurs Cup holders.
“It just wasn’t meant to be for Vancouver last year with the lightning and games called off,” said Terry Dunfield, who started both Cup matches against the Reds last season.
The Canadian international was in the opposite locker room when a freak storm forced a second-leg replay despite Vancouver leading in the match.
“This is a Canadian derby and a final,” Dunfield said. “You’re only two games away from winning the Cup. If you do win it leads to bigger and better things as we saw ... There's nothing more that I want then to go back to Vancouver and win the Canadian Cup."
Head coach Aron Winter issued the Reds three days to recover following a semifinal win over the Montreal Impact last Wednesday and told reporters earlier this week that his side will push for a critical away goal tonight.
Despite being forced into an untimely trip to New England for a league fixture last weekend, Martin Rennie’s side should be somewhat rested.
Vancouver didn’t travel three of its regular contributors and didn’t bother starting either of his two centre backs against the Revolution.
“They lost 4-1 without three of their players so that is still going to hurt,” Dunfield said of his former club. “It’s not easy (for them) coming off a loss and a tough flight out east.”
Winter would likely trade a short span of rest for the health of his TFC's players. The Dutchman has decided not to push Torsten Frings as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury, a massive loss in the midfield for a club that will be without multiple defensive pieces.
“He can play with it,” Winter said of Frings’ injury. “But now I think it’s important to give him the time to recover ... For the next game he will be fit.”
Toronto will also be without Richard Eckersley, who was sent off in last week’s semifinal, and Miguel Aceval. The Chilean centre back continues to experience tightness in his hamstring.
While Danny Koevermans is with the team, it’s unlikely Winter will deem him fit enough to start after missing close to three weeks.
“Vancouver is doing quite well in the league,” Winter said. The ’Caps currently occupy the fourth spot in the east with a big match against Seattle Saturday.
“It’s always a battle and we want to go and win the Cup,” Winter continued. “It’s not going to be easy but we are preparing ourselves very well.”
Following a pair of standout performances as a second-half substitute, Winter’s preparation could see Jeremy Hall earn his first start in place of Eckersley.
With Frings out injured for a second time this season, the probable midfield partnership of Julian de Guzman and Dunfield will be massive in terms of escaping BC Place with a result that sets Toronto up to advance from next week’s return leg.
“We know that they’ve got a good team,” Winter said. “I think they’re going to be playing with the strongest 11 that they have because they want to win against us.”
And after having last year’s competition stolen out from under them, the ’Caps enter this edition looking to earn back what they believe is rightfully theirs.