Not to pour cold water over the excitement of First Kick 2011, but it has been asked by several supporters in light of yesterday’s opening weekend announcement, are Toronto and Vancouver truly rivals?
Before we get into that, here are three (of many) factors to get excited about.
I know my friends at MLSsoccer.com are thrilled about this ‘Canadian Derby’ and they should be. March 19, 2011 will mark the first time two Canadian teams will meet in an official Major League Soccer match. Since Commissioner Don Garber credits Toronto supporters with showing MLS how the game is meant to be enjoyed, this is an important step forward for the league in another Canadian city where the sport is followed closely and with the respect it deserves.
Many TFC supporters are in the process of booking tickets to the west coast for that weekend. The homes of a few western Reds have already been targeted as billeting locales. I hear Vancouver is a beautiful place, and you can’t blame anyone for wanting to witness this truly historic First Kick. Many people are simply grateful they don’t have to go to Columbus again; that’s a horribly depressing place.
[inline_node:5515]This match will allow ex-Torontonians in Vancouver (and there are many) to see their Reds up close in a league match, rather than through the prism of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. Taking nothing away from NCC – Toronto loves winning that trophy and maybe someday Vancouver will know what that feels like – but a league match somehow always matters more.
Considering all of that, it still has to be asked, are Toronto and Vancouver rivals?
The answer is generally, ‘no.'
Rivalries need to be fed historical animosity and there isn’t enough of it between the two cities. This is understandable since there is a distance of 3,360 kilometers of sparse Canadian vastness that separates these urban centres. It’s hardly a ‘derby’ with that kind of commute.
People in Vancouver like to poke fun at Toronto, but who in Canada doesn’t? There’s a price to pay for being the commercial and cultural engine of an entire country for 143 years and Torontonians humbly accept that immense burden.
Vancouver may not be a great Toronto rival, but that March 19th match will still be a historic and enjoyable First Kick and there is major bragging rights at play because a moment like that simply can't be duplicated again.
Beyond that, the Whitecaps have its own discord with Seattle and Portland and that antagonism will be matched and perhaps surpassed in 2012 when Montreal enters the league as an automatic villain to Toronto. If MLS thinks Toronto-Vancouver is a ‘rivalry’ simply because they are two Canadian cities, the league will need to severely expand its lexicon to prepare for the St. Lawrence Derby – or whatever it may be called – in 2012.
Discuss this with Asif on Twitter