2010 Nutrilite Canadian Championship, Match 4: Toronto FC (3W,4L,1D 3rd Eastern Conference, MLS) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W,3D,1L 1st NASL Conference, USSF 2nd Division).
All time record: Vancouver leads 2-1-1.
What’s at Stake?
It’s simple. If Toronto win, they repeat as NCC champions. A loss and the Reds will face a winner-take-all showdown against Vancouver back in Toronto on June 2. So Preki’s side will look to close out the tournament to focus on its MLS campaign. TFC continue to absorb too much pressure without effectively counterattacking. That’s a recipe for failure, even against a Whitecaps team that’s struggling to score. Fatigue may be a factor, so Toronto will try to economize hoping to do enough to pull out a win.
Vancouver lead the NASL Conference, but have had their trouble on offense with two scoreless draws in their last two games and only two goals in their last four games. Teitur Thordarson’s side will have to find its touch if it hopes to beat Toronto in this do-or-die game. Fortunately, though the Whitecaps FC are second last in scoring, they’re the best in the USSF 2nd Division with just two goals allowed in six games.
With one point in one game, Vancouver will pull to within two points of Toronto with two matches to play compared to one for Toronto. A tie and Vancouver would have to win both their remaining games, including beating TFC in Toronto.
Vancouver won the last match between the two, 2-0, in the penultimate match of the 2009 NCC last June in Burnaby, British Columbua. Toronto had no answers for Vancouver’s Ansu Toure, who wreaked havoc with both goals in the victory that seemed to give Vancouver a lock on their first NCC title. Toure scored in the 31st to stake the Whitecaps to a lead and then added insurance late in the game. All that Vancouver had to do was sit back and watch Toronto try to do the impossible in Montreal and beat Montreal by five goals. But that’s exactly what Toronto did, with an incredible 6-1 win at Montreal denying the Whitecaps FC of their first NCC title.
Heroes and Villains
Vancouver’s offense vs. Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei: It’s amazing that Vancouver are atop the NASL Conference with just four goals in six league games. However, that won’t cut it in this must-win match. Making matters more difficult is the play of TFC's goalkeeper, who single-handedly preserved the draw against the Galaxy last weekend. Frei has been solid all season and Vancouver’s strikers will have to dig deep for some offense. Martin Nash leads Vancouver with three assists and his probable absence, due to a bad back, would be a big blow.
Toronto FC vs. fatigue: With four matches in just 12 days, fatigue may be a bigger enemy for TFC than Vancouver’s anemic offense. New England loom at home Saturday in a key MLS encounter, so look for Preki to start a strong lineup to get an early goal, yet use his full complement of substitutions to give his starters some rest for the weekend. This could give Vancouver the window of opportunity they need to score then sit on a lead. The ability to manage personnel amid fatigue and two important games will be a test of Preki’s coaching and decision-making.
Stats that makes you go “Hmm...”
Vancouver are undefeated at Swangard Stadium against Toronto FC with a win and draw.
He said it
“In a way, these are the biggest games in the season, possibly. It’s always so that good competitors don’t miss these occasions and I think we have had good players here. Players who are very competitive winners who really want to win these big games and which should be the case every time, but we all know how it is. I think that is one of the reasons that we have had players who have always turned up for the biggest games and that’s a good sign.” – Vancouver coach Teitur Thordarson on why the Whitecaps have played well against Toronto FC.