Some Vancouver players feel Wednesday's match against Toronto represents a chance at redemption, while others are calling it just another game.
It’s the first chance the ‘Caps have at taking on TFC after losing in the final of the Canadian Championship 2-1 on aggregate in May.
Playing at BMO Field, it’s the fourth game of five consecutive road matches for Vancouver, which has gone 1-1-1 thus far, falling 3-0 to the LA Galaxy before beating the Colorado Rapids 1-0 and most recently drawing Chivas USA 0-0 on Saturday.
“This isn’t really anything to do with the Canadian Championship,” head coach Martin Rennie told reporters on Monday after a training session at Burnaby Lake field. “But it’s another important game for us. We’re in a good run of form right now on the road and we want to keep that going. I think it’s a rival, a Canadian rival, and obviously you want to do well against other teams from Canada as well as you want to do against anybody else.
“But now, for us, it’s about trying to push up as high up the table as we can and keep our good form going.”
The Whitecaps currently sit in fourth place in the Western Conference, tied on points with third place Seattle Sounders. Rennie reacted sharply to one reporter when asked about his club’s “struggles” against TFC.
“We’ve only played them three times,” Rennie said. “We’ve beaten them once, we’ve tied them once and we’ve drawn them once, so I don’t think we’ve struggled at all.”
While Rennie is incorrect (Vancouver’s only matches against Toronto during his tenure have been the two legs of the Canadian final, a draw and a loss), Toronto has a history of one upping Vancouver when it matters, most notably in back-to-back Canadian Championship wins.
“They seem to lift it against us,” captain Jay DeMerit said. “So we’ll expect them to do so again on Wednesday. Going in there to a tough environment – I know the weather has been pretty hot as well – so there are other things we need to prepare for. But like always we’ll prepare in the right ways, and we know that we’re on a bit of a good run right now so hopefully we can keep our form and score a few more goals now in the next coming weeks and make sure we stay at the top of the league.”
As for the question of redemption?
“I think it’s just a storyline,” DeMerit said. “But I think the rivalry between us and Toronto is a healthy one. It’s good that we get up for those games and they get up for us because any time you can create a rivalry for the sport and for the fans, and now for us, that’s what soccer’s all about.”
Goalkeeper Joe Cannon was more frank about what the game means for him following the disappointment of May’s loss in the final.
“That was a disappointing night,” Cannon said. “That was really heart wrenching actually. A lot of disappointment there because there was a lot of hopes – that was one of our main goals to win the Canadian cup and it didn’t happen. I think if you want to give us some motivation for next game, then it’s definitely the disappointment that we felt – not only for ourselves, but for our fans and for our franchise. Hopefully we come out Wednesday with something to prove.”
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But, even if the Canadian rivalry and the Canadian Championship failure is just a storyline and isn’t something that plays on the minds of Vancouver players, one thing is certain.
The match, against Major League Soccer’s worst team, represents an excellent chance to pick up a precious three points on the road.
“Right now we just need to get points,” Cannon said. “Our schedule up ahead is pretty Western Conference dominated and gets a lot tougher so any time we can pick up points, especially from the East coast teams, it’s gravy. We’re in a good spot right now but that doesn’t mean we can relax just yet – we need to keep going.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Goal.com Canada.