TFC faces uphill battle

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:41 AM ET

Tonight's Canadian socccer championship final against the Montreal Impact -- a CONCACAF game that wasn't even contested last season -- is being hailed as the biggest soccer match played in the short history of Toronto FC.

Some are even hyping the BMO Field showdown as simply the most important played in the history of soccer in this country.

In reality, it likely ranks somewhere in the middle.

TFC, with a record of 1-1-1 in the round robin tournament that also included the Vancouver Whitecaps, must win against Montreal to advance in the CONCACAF Cup against the best clubs in North and South America next winter.

And TFC coach John Carver admitted yesterday his Major League Soccer club has all the pressure going into the 7:30 p.m. start against a Montreal side that plays in the lower wrung United Soccer League.

"Everyone expects us to win," he said. "But I'm expecting our big players to handle the pressure."

Carver knows all too well the pitfalls of playing against a team that plays in a lower league.

"We learned from playing Vancouver twice (a 1-0 loss and a 2-2 draw) that these teams are quality sides," he said.

"I'm telling you they may be in a lower league but if you put white shirts on one team and black shirts on the other it would be hard to tell which is the MLS team."

Carver has reason to be concerned because in their previous win over the Impact, TFC dominated ball possession and offensive tries but was only able to manage one goal.

"Of course we are concerned about how we are not scoring goals," he said. "But one of these games we'll break out and give a team a good spanking."

TFC goalkeeper Greg Sutton has as much, or more, at stake than the majority of his teammates in that he spent much of his professional career in Montreal.

"The Impact gave me my first chance at starting," the 6-foot-5 'keeper from Hamilton said yesterday, after a light workout for team regulars. "I still have many friends on the team and in Montreal so I am really looking forward to this game.

"I think it will be the most important soccer match ever played in Canada."

Carver has a feeling Montreal might come out and play for a 0-0 result, but he hopes not.

"If I were them I would come out giving everything for a win," he said.

That is exactly what Carver intends to do by fielding his best starting 11, in spite of having come off a string of four games in just 10 days.

"I will throw everybody out there in order to win," he said. "Any top player wants to play in big games like this. I won't have to do much motivating."

A big part of tonight's final will be the presentation of the George Gross award, named for the Toronto Sun's late sports editor, to the most valuable player in the tournament.

Toronto Sun publisher Kin-Man Lee will hand over the hardware to the player at the conclusion of the match.


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