TFC's Brennan welcomes rivalry

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Toronto FC captain Jim Brennan wears the red and white proudly at both BMO Field in Major League Soccer and on pitches around the world while playing for Canada's national team.

So there is northing he would like more today than to beat the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps and put a stranglehold on TFC's chances of winning the Nutrilite Canadian Championship -- a three-team round-robin tournament (also including the Montreal Impact) to decide Canada's representative in the 2009 CONCACAF Cup.

For a side in only its second year, one would assume that would be a pretty lofty goal, but TFC will go into the match as heavy favourites to beat the long-established Whitecaps.

Vancouver -- once home to stars such as Alan Ball, Buzz Parsons, Glen Johnson and Bobby and Sam Lenarduzzi -- now plays in the United Soccer League, as does Montreal.

While the USL provides some entertaining soccer, it generally is considered a notch below the MLS.

That, Brennan said, proffers the expectation that the Reds should win easily today. However, he is all too aware that in such derby matches the underdog often rises to the occasion.

"Sure there will be pressure on us, but we can handle it," he said. "It will be a tough game but I'll tell you it will be a great game."

TFC coach John Carver sees today's match as the beginning of a rivalry among Canada's top soccer teams that eventually will have the feel of such English derby games as those between Norwich City and Ipswich Town.

And Brennan, a former Canary, agrees.

"I think this can turn into what happens in the U.K. with derby games," Brennan said. "It is something the fans are really going to enjoy."

He said that with Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver having rivalries in other professional sports such as hockey and Canadian football the Nutrilite Canadian Championship will have an added bit of drama.

"Everybody in Canada wants to beat Toronto," Brennan said. "And because we are the MLS, the big club with the big stadium, we know that teams come in here and want to beat us -- especially Montreal and Vancouver."

On the flip side of the coin, though, Brennan said TFC will use that as a motivator to give his side the edge today.

"We know we need nothing less than a win (today) and we are capable of doing just that," he said.

TFC won its first championship game last month with a 1-0 result in Montreal. Since then, the Impact swept its two games against Vancouver.

The Reds will travel to Vancouver on July 9 and play host to Montreal at BMO on July 22 to wrap up the tournament.


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