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Match Preview: Canadian Championship Final, Leg 1

Death, taxes and Vancouver vs. Toronto in the Canadian Championship: the three certainties in life, and with the third throwing down at BC Place this Wednesday night.

MLS: Toronto FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Convalescing in their annual rite of the summer passage, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC will once again square off to battle for the Voygaeurs Cup in the 2018 Canadian Championship final, with the first of two legs to take place Wednesday night in Vancouver.

Match Information

Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC

When: Wednesday, August 8th at 7 pm PST

How: TSN1 & TSN4 (TV); TSN1040 AM (Radio)

Historically, Toronto has greatly outperformed Vancouver in the championship, having won the title 6 times against the Whitecaps lone triumph in 2015, as the Reds have won the last two tournaments on the trot.

To get the locals all riled up and amped for the first leg, it’s worth the reminder of how Toronto won it in 2016 IN VANCOUVER. Lousy Will Johnson.

Or in 2011. Lousy inclimate weather.

Or in 2009. Lousy porous Montreal.

In any case, the Whitecaps have a head-to-head record of 5-5-4 against Toronto in the competition since 2008, though this doesn’t take into consideration any penalty kick or away goal victories, where Toronto won one of each, respectively, in 2014 and 2016. Win the battle, lose the war, I suppose.

For what it’s worth, Vancouver is 3-4-1 against Toronto in MLS play since 2011.

To hearken on slightly more recent MLS results, both clubs are coming off hard fought, come from behind away draws against two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Nicloas Mezquida netted early and Erik Hurtado late to earn the Whitecaps a 2-2 draw at New York City FC, while Sebastian Giovinco & Tosaint Ricketts did the same in a 2-2 draw at Atlanta United.

Who’s Available?

With the Canadian Championship, it’s always a partial crapshoot, given how the tournament necessitates midweek matches smack in the middle of the MLS season. That, and the respective clubs’ tendencies to reward young, up & coming talents. As well, the battle for the Voyageurs Cup provides a respite for the battle weary, while also providing a testing ground for the recently weary or those in need of some kind of redemption.

With that in mind, I would not at all be surprised to see the Whitecaps field any mix of Jake Nerwinski, Brett Levis, Marcel de Jong, David Norman, Felipe, Russell Teibert, Nicolas Mezquida, Anthony Blondell, or Kei Kamara.

Of course, only so many players could be named to the Whitecaps 23-man roster for the first leg, so we won’t be seeing the likes of Jose Aja, Jordon Mutch, or Bernie Ibini.

And, if the following tweet is correct, Efrain Juarez won’t be taking part tomorrow, either:

As for Toronto, I wasn’t able to find a press release detailing their roster, but Greg Vanney has a large cast of characters from which to draw: Alex Bono, Clint Irwin, Gregory van der Wiel, Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow, Nick Hagglund, Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio, Victor Vazquez, Auro Jr., Ashtone Morgan, or Ayo Akinola, for example could all make an appearance.

Going by the MLS Injury Report, the odd man out is Drew Moor. That was at the beginning of the day, mind you. There’s one name of note I’ve yet to address...

Who’s Worth Watching?

Kendall Waston vs. Sebastian Giovinco Jozy Altidore

Originally, I pegged Giovinco as the one to keep an eye on (I mean, he’s ONLY been on the MLS Best XI three times out of three seasons). However, a second tweet caught my today:

For the moment, I’m guessing he’s being rested following matches against Ottawa, Chicago, Juventus, and Atlanta over the recent weeks. But for all I know he’s having an appendectomy. What’s important is that he ain’t in Vancouver.

Instead, I imagine the bulk of the Toronto offense may instead go through Altidore. I mean, the guy clearly loves scoring in Vancouver. To thwart him? Honestly, I feel like we need to fight big with big, and let Kendall Waston go toe to toe with Ol’ Josmer. Believe me: the roof at BC Place is going to be open, because this one’s going to get heated.

Who’s Going to Win?

Toronto has bagged the last two Voyageurs Cups, so it’s assumed they’re the odds on favorite to win it again, particularly after retaining a large chunk of 2017’s record-breaking, MLS Cup-winning roster.

And even if their lengthy run to the CONCACAF Champions League Final produced a sizable hangover that’s presently throwing their current MLS season into question, the club’s recent run of form suggests they may be turning a corner, with an away loss to Orlando City being the only blemish in their last five matches.

To that extent, one could argue that Vancouver is slightly on the uptick following encouraging results in their last five, with wins against Chicago and Minnesota, as well as last weekend’s draw to NYC. That, combined with the absence of a certain formica atomica and an embracing of the underdog role, makes me think we’ll see a positive result Wednesday night, if only to make the return leg next week all the more dramatic.

And what will add drama and intrigue to a return leg? Why, a 1-0 victory for this week’s home side, of course! I mean, what could be more “VWFC” than winning this week and forcing themselves to put their bunker-and-counter skills to the ultimate test in the return leg, for the Canadian Championship no less? I get the feeling that Kei Kamara is going to put his noggin to good use, making next week’s match in Toronto all the more harrowing.

Potential Lineups:

Vancouver Whitecaps - Marinovic; Nerwinski, Waston, Henry, de Jong; Techera, Felipe, Norman, Davies; Reyna, Kamara.

Toronto FC - Irwin; van der Wiel, Zavaleta, Mavinga; Bradley; Auro, Vazquez, Osorio, Morgan; Akinola, Altidore.