Well, Toronto FC's first Voyageurs Cup game is coming up, so tradition dictates that that means it's time for the old faithful post, looking into just how hard TFC should be trying to win. In 2011, a poll showed the Voyageurs Cup as very important to 67% of repsondents, with 0% of readers wanting to focus on the league, probably due to the league season being already obviously hopeless. In 2012, well it was a bit more ambiguous with some only saying yes go for it because all other hope was lost and they just wanted to beat the other team rather than caring about winning for it's own sake, and some people actually coming out and saying, no, they should be concentrating on the league. 2013 saw Kristin hoping for a win, but suggesting it'd be for the best to not try too hard, to rest the starters and focus on the league, no poll that year though.
So how about this year, do I want TFC to go all out to win this? Do I think they should? Do I think they will?
Do I want TFC to win? Yes, absolutely, for all the usual reasons. There's the bragging rights involved, not to mention the history of the trophy and the respect that that should demand. Now you might say the competition itself doesn't really demand respect, a 5 team tournament that generally draws lower crowds than league games do, and in a way I'd agree with you. I'd love for that not to be the case though, growth is going to be a gradual and probably painfully slow thing, but one thing that would help with that is if the teams themselves take it seriously, put out their first teams and try their hardest to win. If people don't view this cup as a priority compared to league games and can't be bothered to come watch, well that's never going to be helped by them reading reports or watching highlights of games featuring a lot of reserve players, that just reinforces the perceived lack of importance. So for the good of the competition and for the game as a whole in Canada, yes, play your first team, go out there and win, then enjoy the meaningful prestige. Also, someone needs to make sure Vancouver don't win, and that's not going to be Edmonton or Montreal is it?
Do I think TFC should go all out to win? Well, all the romance and idealism of that last paragraph are nice, but the league is the more important competition, at least until TFC can figure out how to be a respectable team that can compete in two or 3 different tournaments. Prove they can do that, maybe make the playoffs a couple of times, and them maybe it'd be ok to prioritise other things that would help with the greater good. At this stage, that still seems very much in the balance despite all the fancy new signings. Adding an extra 2 games at the end of May (when the team will already be shorthanded due to world cup callups) won't help with that, neither would an extra 4 games for the CCL, as much as I enjoy that tournament. Tim Leiweke has talked about his desire to ask for a raise, and that that request will happen when TFC have some success, by which he means making the playoffs, I can't imagine he'll be happy having to avoid that price hike due to missing out again. To deliver one last message in this paragraph, here's Aron Winter "I won this tournament, went to the semi finals of the CCL, then won this tournament again, then got fired for my league record. Tis pity" So yeah, really the only sensible thing to say is that Ryan Nelsen should be prioritising the league, if only for his own job safety.
Do I think they will? Well here's some of Ryan Nelsen's public musings on that subject.
Nelsen: "I think the guys who have come in…have shown they can handle themselves. Whoever is put out there, 100%, I expect them to win."— Armen Bedakian (@ArmenBedakian) May 6, 2014
Read into that what you will, he's obviously not going to come out and say he's tanking, even if he is, but it certainly suggest we'll see something similar to last season, not a full on B team, but B+ at best. Meanwhile, here's Jonathan Osorio fully getting into the correct spirit.
"We're going to do our best to make sure Vancouver will have to keep dreaming of winning this championship,"
Very nice Jonathan, very nice.
It's very very unlikely he'll be playing on Wednesday what with the injury he picked up on Saturday, but what kind of lineup might we see? For me, I will reluctantly say that Nelsen should be concentrating on the league, but for this game I'd put out as strong a lineup as I can. There's a bye week coming up so plenty of time to rest so why not try take advantage of the weakened lineup Vancouver are hinting at and build a big lead. Let Jermain Defoe loose for one last chance to show Roy Hodgson what he can do. Let Gilberto out there to get a much needed goal against a weakened Whitecaps defence. If this can get his season going, no-one's going to be attaching an asterisk to it. Depending on when Brazil want people in camp, this might be Julio Cesar's last ever game at BMO Field, give him one last chance to show what he can do? Try your best to give the fans that show up a good performance, some goals and a win to celebrate, restore some of the rapidly diminishing faith, get that bloody big deal feeling back.
Next week, with a game coming up on Saturday back in Toronto, then yes, keep the big names (those that haven't left for pre world cup camps already) at home, save them the travel and the game on turf, that just makes sense, and hopefully Nelsen's bullish talk about those guys being able to handle themselves will prove true.
That would be my ideal. Play the games in a way that makes sense for the league, but after taking that into account, whoever's out there should be going all out to win. Then hopefully a similarly pragmatic team can do the business in the final as well, then deal with the CCL when it happens.
Anyway, who cares what I think, or what Nelsen might think, how important is the Voyageurs Cup? You decide. With a poll!