The trophy that Toronto FC really wants isn't handed out until the end of the MLS season, but the club has a chance to win its first major silverware since 2012 tonight. They take on the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the Voyageurs Cup at BMO Field. The Whitecaps are the tournament's defending champions.
Last year was Vancouver's first championship after generally being snake bitten through the first few years of the competition. Often, the Whitecaps downfall in the Canadian Championship has come at the hands of Toronto FC.
In 2009, the Whitecaps were all but guaranteed the trophy provided Toronto FC didn't put off an unlikely four-goal win against Montreal. Toronto would go one better as a Dwayne De Rosario hat trick led to a 6-1 victory and their first Voyageurs Cup. Two years later, a goal from Mikael Yourassowsky saw Toronto FC beat the Whitecaps in the tournament final. In 2012, it was Reggie Lambe who provided the winner as Toronto again beat the Caps in the final.
Toronto FC will be hoping history repeats itself today, as they have never lost to the Whitecaps in a two-legged tie in this competition. Most of those rounds have been won as a result of Toronto's home performance, making today's game crucial.
TFC comes into today's game in good form after being the LA Galaxy 1-0 on Saturday to end a four-game winless skid in Major League Soccer. Across all competitions, they have not lost in their last three matches, after beating the Montreal Impact 4-2 on aggregate in the tournament's semi-final stage.
The Whitecaps needed a 3-0 home result to overturn a 2-0 semi-final deficit against the Ottawa Fury to reach the final. They have been incredibly inconsistent this season, and won just one of their last four MLS matches.
That game, coincidently, came against Toronto FC, a 4-3 loss at BMO Field that took Toronto FC a while to recover from. On that day, it was the Whitecaps speed combined with a number of mental lapses from Toronto that led to a surprising victory for the visitors.
Don't expect the same tonight, Toronto FC will be extra careful at the back, trying to make sure that the same thing doesn't happen again. Since that match, Toronto has had three clean sheets in six matches.
The lineups that both teams play will be a big factor in the match, as both have to balance the competition with MLS play. The Vancouver Whitecaps tend to play a young roster in away legs in this competition. Youngsters Ben McKendry and 15-year-old Alphonso Davies made the trip to Toronto, and could see time tonight.
For Toronto FC, the health of Will Johnson will be crucial. The Canadian midfielder made only a late appearance during the weekend against LA Galaxy, with Vanney confirming he still hasn't fully recovered from a hip injury. His availability will be crucial, especially if the club wants to rest Benoit Cheyrou for MLS play.
As far as injuries go, Toronto FC will likely be without Ashtone Morgan and Daniel Lovitz for tonight's match. Both injuries are unfortunate, as the pair were big players in Toronto FC's semi-final win over the Montreal Impact.
If Toronto FC wants to hoist its first Voyageurs Cup since 2012, this game tonight is crucial. Beating the Whitecaps at home has never been an easy task, and Toronto will want to make sure it isn't a necessity.