Looking to ride a wave

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

The visiting Vancouver Whitecaps figure: Why wait another two years to strike the first blow in their Major League Soccer rivalry with Toronto FC?

Though the Reds are the talk of the MLS for their splashy start the past three seasons, the west coast does have an equally strong claim as the nation's traditional market and tonight's opening Nutrilite Cup game is another chance to remind upstart TFC of that. The Caps begin MLS play as an expansion team in 2011.

"Everything we are doing now is obviously with MLS in mind," Vancouver coach Teiter Thordarson said yesterday at BMO Field. "It's the biggest and best opportunity for us to see where we are and how good we are. We are on fire in our room and everyone is ready to play ball."

The Caps beat TFC 1-0 here on July 1 in last year's Nutrilite game, part of Toronto's disappointing showing in the three-team all-Canadian event that eventually saw the Montreal Impact, who also play in the USL's top division, win the trophy and go far into the CONCACAF Champions League.

"We have seen what playing important games all through the winter can do and would like the same opportunity," Thordarson said.

TFC head coach Chris Cummins recalls he almost had to talk his Vancouver-born assistant Nick Dasovic off the roof when favoured TFC didn't advance at last year's Nutrilite.

"Two weeks later he was just sick about it," Cummins said with a laugh. "I think it hurt him the most (of TFC's Canadians such as captain Jim Brennan). That's when we first realized this does mean a lot to the Canadian lads. This year, we've brought in top quality Canadians such as (Scarborough's) Dwayne De Rosario and Adrian Serioux. We've just told our guys 'Remember how you felt last year.'

"We're undefeated in our past three games, so we're going in with confidence. It's a tournament we'll take very, very seriously. Back home in the U.K. we have the FA Cup and something like this is important to me. I know this is important to our fans, too."

The veteran Thordarson called last year's Canada Day win at BMO "one of the greatest experiences I've ever had on the football field -- and I've experienced a lot. I enjoy how the spectators here created an atmosphere. And it was a kick for our older guys."

Midfielder Martin Nash of the Whitecaps, brother of Canadian NBA star Steve Nash, certainly remembers.

"It will be an instant rivalry for us and we could probably sell 5,000 extra seats at home," Nash said. "Vancouver has a long soccer history with the Soccer Bowl in the 1970s."

If anyone doubted that USL teams aren't pushovers, the Nutrilite games were convincing evidence.

"There is a certain difference between USL and MLS, but I definitely think our teams are very close," Thordarson said.


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