Here we go then, take two. This time it really matters, and this time, (probably, but check out the weather forecast, chance of thunderstorms. Seriously) it will really count. After May's false start, and after Wednesday's warm up, the season defining game for both clubs is finally here. The only realistic chance of success, The Voyageurs Cup, the Canadian Championship, on the Canada day long weekend. Perfect.
Back in May I wrote
The first leg didn't really solve anything, all that's changed is that Vancouver HAS to score, as a 0-0 tie will see Toronto FC win, and any tie with more than 1 goal will be good enough for Vancouver to claim the trophy for the first time in their history. Aside from that, it's basically now down to one game, 90 minutes, maybe extra time, maybe even penalties, winner takes all, no second chances, a real cup final. So crank up the hype machine as far it goes for Canadian soccer, let's say 'pre-season Leafs game' level, and let's see what happens, because now THIS, all by itself is the most important game of the season, that Voyageur's Cup will be handed out to someone
All that very much still applies for tomorrow's game, and the events that day just served to ramp up the emotional importance of it all, as i wrote the day after
Now there's a rivalry. Rightly or wrongly, Vancouver feel cheated. From Montreal's capitualtion in 2009, they feel cheated, from the way the format of and seeding for this years trophy was decided, they feel cheated. After their poor finishing combined with some poor refereeing to allow TFC to escape a first leg that Vancouver dominated with a draw, there was a lot of exasperation and frustration and a sense of doom that it just wasn't going to work out for them, but still, no real anger towards TFC. Now they really feel cheated, they have a whole new injustice to stew over, a new chip to perfectly balance out the one they already had on their other shoulder, and a newly found hate for TFC...Whitecaps fans will want to win to stick it to TFC, the CSA, the Impact, all the people that they imagine have conspired to rob them of Voyageurs Cup glory so far. TFC fans would love nothing more than to send the Whitecaps fans home crying about 'moral victories'.
So that's the emotional stuff, why this is important, but what about the game, what's going to happen there? I'll get into that after the jump.
We got a bit of a preview on Wednesday, but both teams rested a few players so we really can't read too much into it. For TFC, the one area where they tipped their hand for Saturday's game is in defence where Richard Eckersley was moved into a Centre Back spot alongside Ty Harden. Aron Winter said post game that that move was made as a response to the threat Eric Hassli represents, and due to Doneil Henry's recent struggles. Hassli didn't play the full game, so we didn't really get to see how it worked, but they kept him fairly quiet for the second half, and the clean sheet overall means it's very likely we'll see that again.
The secondary consequence of that decision is that we now need a Right Back, and that means Dan Gargan. He did ok on Wednesday, so I imagine we'll see him again, along with Harden and Daneligh Borman. That's a less than ideal back 4, but you know, beggars can't be choosers and all that, and it worked on Wednesday, so deep breath and hope for the best is what we'll have to do.
Up front, the obvious thing to do is to have a proper centre Forward in there. Given TFC's midfield struggles, the attack is pretty much all down the wings, and having Javier Martina as the target man for crosses really didn't work out. Alan Gordon doesn't seem ready to come back, so it'll be Maicon Santos up front. With De Merit likely back for Vancouver, Santos is pretty much guaranteed to have a very quiet game, but he usually has at least one good moment a game, let's hope he can make it count like he did in the first leg. I'd expect Joao Plata and Nick Soolsma to keep their spots on the wings as well.
That leaves the midfield, which is much harder to call. This article suggest Julian De Guzman and Tony Tchani are pretty much ready to goand if that's the case, I'd expect both to play. Mikael Yourasowsky and Gianluca Zavarise both had very poor games on Wednesday, and those are the tow that it would make sense to be replaced, as nathan Sturgis has had a few decent games as a replacement for De Guzman. The one thing that may save one of them though is that Sturgis, De Guzman and Tchani are all more defensive players, there's not a lot of attacking skill there, so I think we'll only see 2 of them, and I'd guess at Zavarise being given a chance as the more attacking midfielder.
vancouver will make plenty of changes, though Davide Chiumiento crucially won't be back. Eric Hassli will be starting, as will Terry Dunfield in midfield, and Jay De Merit and Alain Rochat in defence, so they will be a much tougher proposition than they were on Wednesday.
As for a prediction, I'm going back and forth on this one, but I'm generally pessimistic, if only because if TFC are going to win, they're going to need all the luck they can get, and we surely must have used that up as far as this tie goes. I'll say 2-1 Vancouver.