It's a question that's been tossed about since the Caps claimed the 2015-2016 CONCACAF Champions League spot by virtue of being the highest placed Canadian team in MLS. It would figure, that given the Caps misfortunes (self-inflicted or not), that their initial foray in the CCL during the MLS era would be by a temporary amendment of the rules. After spending 5hrs in the car, to witness the gongshow that was the match that eliminated the Caps from the tournament last year, I'm glad that neither opponent they face this year is within a 5hr drive from Vancouver.
Lenarduzzi was very recently on TSN 1040 stating that the priority for the Whitecaps is MLS Cup. That's not something I would put out there, given that Robbo would like to win every game, and has gone as far to say that every competition is important and he'd like to win them all. Well, someone is bending the truth or the left hand isn't talking to the right hand. For one of the main figures that are supposed to be stewards of our club, to borrow an expression from a friend of mine, some others call it the FDP (Football Death Panel) that seem to make all the decisions, to come out and say that, will make some people wonder why even bother competing in the Voyageurs Cup (I will not recognize the competition by its corporate name) and therefore bypassing the CCL altogether. This will not be an issue come 2017-2018 as the nightmare last minute of a particular unnamed match saw to that.
As for this year, it is a winnable group, and people believe that should come down to the 2 matches vs Sporting Kansas City. Central FC is the other participant in the group. Other than Kenwyne Jones (on loan to Central FC by Atlanta, who will be joining MLS in 2017), not much is known about them, other than where they play, that being Couva, Trinidad & Tobago and their stadium name, Ato Boldon.
Sporting Kansas City, especially away from home, have caused the Caps problems. 1 win is all the Caps have against SKC since entering the league in 2011. Granted, it's usually been the best 11 from each team facing each other, so it should be interesting to see how these teams deal with playing each other twice in a matter of days in September.
So, why should people care? Let's look at Montreal in their run to the Final, only to fall short to Club America (who aren't in this year's competition). Yes, getting to the final requires some luck, but it also requires some timely goal scoring. Who's to say that if the Caps could get out of the Group Stage, they might avoid some of the other giants in the competition. Saprissa comes to mind, but they have to deal with the defending MLS Cup Champion Portland Timbers.
What does all this lead to? Well, there's the ability to say you were the first MLS team to win the Champions League, right? It's a legit trophy for sure, and it also punches your ticket into the FIFA Club World Cup, an annual tournament involving the winners of the following competitions: UEFA Champions League, CONCACAF Champions League, Copa Libertadores (South America), OFC Champions League (Oceania), CAF Champions League (Africa) and AFC Champions League (Asia).
Most would be correct in believing that most MLS teams would get stomped on by most of the teams in the FIFA CWC, but I prefer to look at it this way: You were one of 6 teams to make it there. Enough said.
Back to reality, could the Whitecaps escape the group? It's a distinct possibility, however, given the lineups that Robbo fielded during both rounds of the Voyageurs Cup, it would stand to reason that he'd be fielding similar looking squads. Granted, with the imminent departures (if they haven't already happened) of Jordan Smith (back to Saprissa) and Deybi Flores (loan to Motagua), and the additions of Marcel de Jong, David Edgar, Alphonso Davies and Giles Barnes (who may not even play CCL games) the probability of them being better squads is pretty high. Granted, it's a low bar to be clearing, but if they can't beat Central FC away from home, do they deserve to advance? Each preview seems to focus on the travel between Vancouver and Couva, however, it should be not be forgotten, that the Caps have been in the South for a few days now, and the gameday 18 are now presumably in T&T. Will that help them? Your guess is as good as mine.
There will be a few questions answered with the upcoming 4 games in CCL:
1)Who, within the organization, actually gives a flying loogie about this competition?
2)Is Robbo as good a manager as we think he is?
3)Knowing that there's no CCL play next year, will they actually give a loogie?
I know that some of you may not be swayed by the case I've made, but whatever the results turn out to be, there will be lots of fodder from both sides of the debate.