Toronto Seeks First Leg Leap

Asif Hossain -
Retaining The Title

On Wednesday night Toronto FC will be in Vancouver in hopes of clearing the first hurdle in retaining the Voyageurs Cup with the opening leg of the Amway Canadian Championship Final (10 p.m. ET on Sportsnet One).

The Reds have won this tournament three years running and each time has gone a step further in the CONCACAF Champions League. A place in the continental contest is the much coveted prize for all Canadian teams, one that Whitecaps FC have yet to experience. If Toronto midfielder Julian de Guzman has his way, Vancouver will have to wait another year for a chance to represent Canada in CCL. "We know that Vancouver is hungry for it," de Guzman said on Tuesday after TFC's training session at BC Place. But the Torontonian reminds the locals that making the Champions League "means a lot to" his city and the Reds want another ticket to the competition.

Dunfield Homecoming

Fellow Canadian that could partner de Guzman at midfield on Wednesday is Vancouver-born Terry Dunfield. In last season's Canadian Championship, Dunfield was on the Whitecaps' side of this national divide but he will be more than happy to replace nostalgia with a winners' medal over the coming two-game series.

Dunfield asserted "not only is it a rivalry, it's a final," before talking tactics. "It's important that we play smart and limit Vancouver to only so many chances," the midfielder revealed, hinting that the Reds will use a compact style against a fiery Whitecaps attack that Toronto clearly respects. In the semifinals against Montreal Impact, TFC rarely ventured forward in the first game before beating its rival at home a week later to win the series. Toronto is unlikely to repeat that pattern against the Whitecaps as Vancouver - much more than Montreal - has the personnel to punish a negative approach.

Fresh Feeling

Head coach Aron Winter started the week by announcing a change to his coaching staff in Toronto on Monday. A day later in Vancouver the bench boss was focused strictly on the task ahead.

"We came (to Vancouver) very fresh and very secured that we can get a good result," Winter told the media gathered at the Reds' evening training session at BC Place. Unlike the Whitecaps, Toronto was free of MLS duty last weekend. Reds' last match was in this tournament, taking a 2-0 victory over Montreal while playing a man down for 76 minutes. "The last game we played was a very good performance," a content Winter conveyed to the press. He will face a great challenge in replacing Torsten Frings for this encounter after the captain played through - and aggravated - a shoulder injury in the Montreal triumph.

Back In Action

Although Frings is set to miss the first leg, Toronto received some good news this week when Danny Koevermans was cleared to play after nursing a groin injury for the last month.

Winter looks set to hand the Dutch forward his first start since April 14, though the coach rarely reveals his lineup until an hour before each game. "It always feels good to be back. It's the best thing to be on the pitch," Koevermans candidly responded on Monday. He continued that the toughest thing about being away from the team was watching the club lose. The overall winless streak (11 games) ended against Montreal and Koevermans doesn't want to look back. His return provides Winter with multiple forward options, something that could prove useful in late stages of this game if fresh legs are required against a Vancouver side that rested some regulars in their 4-1 loss in New England over the weekend.

The Opposition