At this point in the season it feels like every game is a must-win, but this one is absolutely and unequivocally a must-win. After an own goal at the death from ex-TFC man Doneil Henry granted his former club an equalizer and a second away goal, the Whitecaps are up against it and need to win at BMO Field (or draw while scoring at least 3 times) on Wednesday to clinch only their second Canadian Championship.
The Whitecaps are embroiled in a tight Western Conference playoff race, and are just two points from the 6th and final spot – a Canadian Championship win would be highly motivating and lift spirits heading into the final stretch, as well as giving them a berth in next season’s CONCACAF Champions League. And of course, it’s always nice to win the domestic cup.
The Canadian Championship has become a really interesting and exciting competition in the past few years, and both managers are taking it very seriously, even as both sides have business to attend to in the league.
During an interview with Tim and Sid on Sportsnet on Tuesday afternoon, ‘Caps manager Carl Robinson was cagey and vague when asked about Alphonso Davies’ status ahead of the match after he appeared to pick up a groin injury against TFC in the first leg and missed the Portland match this past weekend. He has travelled however, so perhaps he will make an appearance in the final 20 minutes if the visitors are in need of a late goal. I’d be surprised to see him start, but Robbo will want to field a strong team in such an important game – still, he must be cognisant of the game against the Red Bulls on Saturday with the playoffs still very much in sight.
Expect the usual first-choice backline of Jake Nerwinski, Doneil Henry, Kendall Watson, and Marcel de Jong in front of Stefan Marinovic. Brek Shea is the likely replacement for Davies on the left side of midfield, with the red-hot Cristian Techera manning the opposite wing. A red card deemed soft by almost everybody, from Tim and Sid to Robbo himself, will keep Felipe out of the action, so it will likely be Aly Ghazal and Russell Teibert in the centre of the park. Yordy Reyna will almost certainly play just off Kei Kamara as the pair have been highly effective attackers for the Whitecaps this season.
TFC is likely to bring out most of their big guns as well – expect Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Vazquez, Michael Bradley, and Jonathan Osorio to appear. Jozy Altidore will almost certainly play this entire game – he was sent off in the 11th minute of Toronto’s game against NYCFC at the weekend, so he’s had some rest and won’t be available in their next MLS match either. Auro and Drew Moor are question marks due to recent injuries, and their status is unknown. Expect Gregory van der Wiel, Eriq Zavaleta, and Justin Morrow to defend – Nick Hagglund or Chris Mavinga will likely fill the final spot in central defence.
Robbo is likely to attack – a goalless draw hands the Voyageurs Cup to the opposition. The Whitecaps have been much better at chance creation in recent weeks, although the doubtful status of Davies is worrying as most of their recent offense has been generated by their star man. Techera, Reyna, and even Shea can be exceedingly creative players on their day, though, so they do have a real chance here as long as they don’t sit back and hoof long balls.
TFC will be interested in scoring, but more interested in keeping a clean sheet, so making space and finding open passes will be key.
Either way, this is shaping up to be an excellent conclusion to the Canadian Championship and a great match to tune into on Wednesday night.