Can 'Caps embarrass TFC again?

Whitecaps winger Davide Chiumiento celebrates his goal against the Earthquakes in Vancouver, B.C.,...

Whitecaps winger Davide Chiumiento celebrates his goal against the Earthquakes in Vancouver, B.C., last week. The Whitecaps battle Toronto FC Wednesday night in the first game of a two-game tournament to decide the Canadian championship. (BEN NELMS/Reuters)

MIKE THOMAS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:49 AM ET

TORONTO - When Toronto FC kicks off against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first of two games vying for the Voyageurs Cup on Wednesday night, it will be playing a team anxious for revenge.

A team in the midst of their inaugural season in the MLS, Vancouver has finished second in two consecutive years to TFC in the tournament that annually crowns one team as Canadian champion.

Vancouver tied each of its four games in last yearís tournaments, thrilling for die-hards only. They lost the tourney to Toronto who beat up on the Montreal Impact, the tournamentís only other team, for a final record of 2-2-0.

In 2009 both teams finished with identical 3-0-1 records, with Toronto edging out Vancouver based on an overall goal differential.

This yearís tournament introduces a new four-team, round robin format. Toronto advanced to the final beating newcomers FC Edmonton in both first round games and Vancouver went 1-0-1 against Montreal to advance for a shot at redemption. Victories for both teams means yet another finals rematch.

Although entering the tournament as Canadaís top seeded team, TFC faces no easy path as they go for the three-peat against their western rivals.

On the opening day of the 2011 MLS season and the leagueís first ever All-Canadian matchup the Whitecaps didnít seem to have much trouble facing the defending Canadian champs, rolling over Toronto with a 4-2 win to begin their Major League Soccer tenure.

Since the opener both teams have struggled. TFC sits in seventh place out of nine teams in the Eastern Conference and Vancouver canít seem to escape the basement of the West in their first year. After their promising win over Toronto to start the season they havenít made their way back into the win column.

Both teams, desperate to find their stride, have similar stats to one another throughout the first half of the MLS season. TFCís scored 11 goals and allowed 17, while the Whitecaps have 12 in their favour and 16 going against them. So far neither team has notched a win on the road.

Along with facing a confident team in search of redemption, TFC also faces uncertainty in whether or not their second leading scorer, Alan Gordon, will be game ready. Gordon hasnít played since exiting a game in the second half on May 4 against Edmonton with a groin injury. He scored the lone goal in the game, which helped bring Toronto to the tournament final.

With Gordon questionable, TFC will look to forwards Maicon Santos and Joao Plata who lead the team in goals and assists respectively to contribute some offence in the grudge match. Torontoís only goalie, Stefan Frei will start in net and try not to allow his first goal of the Nutrilite Canadian

Championship after shutting out Edmonton in two games. Vancouver will hope for a goal or two from forwards Eric Hassli or Camillo Sanvezzo who share the team lead with three goals apiece. They will most likely go with Jay Nolly in goal. Nolly has played in all but one of the Whitecaps games since joining the MLS, including both NCC games against Montreal.

With a win on Wednesday, either team greatly improves their chances at the Canadian Championship and will go into next Saturdayís game with a leg up on their cross-country rival. In a two-game set, the team with the better record will win the 10th annual Voyageurs Cup. In the event of a split series, the winner will be decided by aggregate.

- - -

Kickoff

Toronto FC at Vancouver

Nutrilite Canadian Championship final first leg, 10 p.m. SNO

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Adrian Cann vs. Eric Hassli

No guarantees Cann plays since he has been a workhorse this season and TFC has a tough league match at defending champion Colorado on Saturday. If he does, Cann will have to stop Hassli, the big man who terrorized TFC in Vancouverís season-opening 4-2 drubbing of Toronto.

Hassli has only scored once since, missing games to suspension and injury and he might have to sit too, due to aches and pains, but if both are in, this is a matchup to keep an eye on.

NOTES

- Vancouver has never hoisted Voyageurs Cup, TFC has won past two years.

- Whitecaps lost in 2009 to TFC based on goal differential.

- Attiba Harris has led way with two goals, three assists but had knee surgery in May and will be greatly missed.

- Vancouver is last in West with 1-5-5 record in first season of Major League Soccer.

TFC keys:

- Gain at least a draw. A win will be much easier at home next week, but getting a point or even losing by a goal would put TFC in good shape.

- Donít be too aggressive. TFC will surely be out for revenge after being embarrassed to start the season, but must play under control and not get overly excited.

- Defend better. TFCís defenders were beaten like rented mules in the 4-2 loss as Vancouverís players consistently went around them like they were turnstiles. The defence has improved since then but has still allowed too many goals this season.

ó Ryan Wolstat


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