Open Wide for Some Domestic Soccer!
Canada’s national championship kicks off tonight in Toronto and Edmonton with the first legs of the semifinals of the Voyageurs Cup - Amway Canadian Championship for the litigious types.
It may be a tiny competition, a mere four teams and six matches, but don’t be fooled, it can pack a wallop.
There will not be a full Know Your Enemy on Toronto FC’s opponent, the Montreal Impact, but feel free to read the one prepared for their last meeting in March, it still applies, though they have added another Italian (surprise!) in Daniele Paponi, from Bologna.
Montreal’s imperious four-win start to the season came undone with a 2-0 loss in Kansas City where their previously stodgy defense and penetrative counterattacked faltered against the pressing and tempo of Sporting.
Their rigid defense was picked apart by Benny Feilhaber who set up both Claudio Bieler and Graham Zusi for strikes in the first and last ten minutes of the match
A 1-1 draw against Columbus – a day late as the match was delayed by snow - and various comments in the media evidenced a Montreal side that was attempting to add some more wide play to their counterattacking through the middle; a plan B, a second string to their bow.
Marco Di Vaio scored on a lovely long-range shot stroked into the bottom corner, but Dominic Oduro drew the Crew level with a blast of his own.
It was announced publicly last week that second-string keeper Evan Bush will start.
Expect a mix of experience and youth, Canadian defenders Karl Ouimette and Wandrille Lefevre are possible starters, while word is that neither Marco Di Vaio, nor Alessandro Nesta have travelled with the side.
Bye week last weekend – oddly, only one match in April. They may look to keep things tight in the first leg and finish it strong at home.
Andrew Wenger looks to start, while the likes of Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Callum Mallace, and newcomer Daniele Paponi may expect to see some minutes.
Montreal hosts Chicago on the weekend, while Toronto welcome New York to BMO Field.
Montreal won 2-1 when the two last met back on March 16th, a pair of dubious penalty kicks on either side of a deadly Impact counterattack, ended by Di Vaio.
Much was made at the time of the Impact’s dominance, but it was a much closer affair than many remember, or thought at the time.
Marco Schallibaum looks to be approaching this tie in a very European manner, keeping it tight on the road before sealing the result at home. He was sure to stress that there was a return leg in the pre-match chats, perhaps bracing those in Montreal for a disappointingly quiet first leg.
Recall the dour 0-0 result Toronto stole on the road last year, only to clinch the series in the second leg 2-0 back at home.
Montreal stole Ryan Nelsen’s warm-up music – AC/DC’s Hells Bells – for this montage recalling their 2008 victory:
Nelsen, unaware of the theft, with his tame pre-match comments; just wait till he hears about the thievery:
Local Lad, Kyle Bekker, expected to have an impact tonight:
Patrice Bernier, en francais, bilingual nation and all:
Pre-match Reading - Links
Out of Touch – Voyageurs Cup Pool
The Yorkies – The Matchup: Weather or not
Duncan Sportsnet.ca – Canadian Championship to test TFC’s Strength
Michael Crampton Canadian Soccer News – Streaks and Schedules (Kiwi-tinged Maple Syrup – shudder)
Kurt Larson Toronto Sun – TFC Begins Drive for Fifth Straight
Steve Bottjer RNO – Counter Attack: TFC or Montreal on to the Final?
Olivier Tremblay MLSsoccer.com – Impact hoping for “Spirit of 2008”
Steve Bottjer MLSsoccer.com – Bekker on the Verge of Breakout
Kamal Hylton Soccer News Day – TFC Double Duty in League and Cup
Ludovick Martin Soccer News Day – Montreal Ready to Cross Swords with TFC
Red Nation Online – Roundtable Predicions
Nigel Reed CBC – Canadian Championship Offers Exciting Battles
CSA – Read for Kick-Off
Benjamin Massey Maple Leaf Forever – FC Edmonton Primer
Enjoy the Match!