Caps' priorities could be trouble for TFC

Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie rested a number of key players at New England on the...

Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie rested a number of key players at New England on the weekend in preparation for the opening leg of the Canadian Cup final vs. Toronto. (REUTERS)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:43 PM ET

TORONTO - The Vancouver Whitecaps have made it clear: "It's important to us," head coach Martin Rennie said of Wednesday's first leg of the Canadian Cup final.

So important the first-year manager rested a number of starters in a 4-1 loss at New England on the weekend as the Caps get set to welcome Toronto FC to Vancouver's BC Place in a repeat of last year's Cup final.

"We see it as a way to get into the CONCACAF Champions League and a chance to win a trophy. Some of what we did (Saturday) was based on that," Rennie concluded.

The Scotsman rested starting centre back Martin Bonjour at Gillette Stadium and didn't bother travelling captain Jay DeMerit, John Thorrington or creative attacker Camilo ahead Toronto's midweek visit.

Rennie's decision to put an emphasis on Wednesday's opening leg could backfire if his side fails to come away with a positive result ahead of the all-important return leg in Toronto next week.

And after watching his side get scorched for four by a mediocre Eastern Conference club, failure to capture Vancouver's first Voyageurs Cup could have massive ramifications after admittedly tossing aside league points.

NGUYEN WINS

It has to irk Rennie that the same player he pink-slipped right before the season came back to bag a brace and add an assist in the above mentioned rout.

Speaking with the Sun before pre-season camp at BC Place, Lee Nguyen said he was focused on settling into his new digs in the Pacific Northwest after the Whitecaps won his rights in a weighted lottery.

"I'm looking to earn a spot in Vancouver and hopefully have a long career there," he said last December.

"I've talked to Martin Rennie "¦ and they're excited to see me."

The same can't be said for Saturday after Nguyen opened the scoring for New England and added sure bet goal-of-the-year candidate late in the match -- a half-volley from distance that froze Joe Cannon to his goal line.

"My goal is to win a starting spot with Vancouver and help them win games," he said back then.

"I think my playing will do the talking."

And it did just that against Vancouver on the weekend.

HEAD SCRATCHER

Head coach Aron Winter has guided Toronto to just six league wins from 42 MLS matches and has collected points in just 26% of his league fixtures since the start of 2011 -- the second worst winning percentage among MLS coaches that have been in charge for at least a season.

That said, Winter's winning percentage in Cup games is an astronomical 65%.

Since beginning last year's Canadian Cup with a pair of wins against FC Edmonton, the Dutchman has accumulated a 10-3-5 record away from MLS with massive away results in Panama, Nicaragua, L.A., Mexico City and Dallas.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

The Montreal Impact set a record for soccer attendance for a club match in Canada Saturday. It wasn't difficult with the star-studded L.A. Galaxy in town to pack 60,860 into Olympic Stadium while the club's Saputo Stadium is under construction. Oh yeah, they also earned a hard-fought 1-1 draw to go 12 points up on TFC "¦ Vancouver's BC Place held the previous record between two clubs when 60,342 showed up to watch the Caps battle the Seattle Sounders in the first game at the stadium in 1983 "¦ And it was an emotional weekend in Houston as the Dynamo opened its new 22,000-seat downtown stadium with a 1-0 win over D.C. United. While Toronto FC fans will remember Santos Laguna's lime green seats as being fairly menacing, Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium features bright orange chairs that are semi-blinding to the untrained eye "¦ Did anyone else see New York's Rafa Marquez tell Philly's Freddy Adu "that's bad, man" after being sent off for simulation yesterday? I seem to remember a certain Mexican being suspended to start the season for a similar matter stemming from last year's MLS Cup final "¦ It's like the NHL and MLS have teamed to issue more match bans than ever this season. We've seen an extraordinary number of MLS suspensions this year and there's no reason to believe Kansas City's Roger Espinoza shouldn't face the same following a flying elbow in Chicago Saturday. After successfully winning a tackle, the Honduran international flew in with his elbow raised and purposely struck the Fire's Sebastian Grazzini across the jaw. A three-game ban is a must, but you have to wonder if the league will take the dirty midfielder's priors into account.

FINAL THOUGHT

The TFC league catastrophe takes a back seat to the first leg of Canadian Cup final in Vancouver Wednesday, but has Toronto taken full advantage?

Gifted a weekend off while their counterparts laboured to a 4-1 thumping in Boston, the Reds were given four days off over the weekend.

While there's something to be said for rest, there's also something to be said for intelligent preparation on the training pitch, especially following an 0-8-0 league start.

After looking sharp last week against the Impact, a lack of training time could come back to haunt Winter, who may have over-issued his players time away from the game.


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