Old foes on a familiar battle field.
Here we go again folks! It’s the Canadian Championship final. This year’s heartbreak/jubilation will be against Toronto, after TFC beat Montreal 4-2 on aggregate in their fairly one-sided semi-final.
A pair of goals each for Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton put TFC up 4-0 before two late consolation goals for the ten man Impact gave them hope towards the end of the first leg. A 0-0 scoreline in the second, after a dull game, saw Toronto advance to meet Vancouver in the final once again.
Toronto have played some Canadian talent in their campaign so far, and it has paid off in a big way. The goalscorers were both Canadian boys that came in for big Designated Players. Knowing Canada, those lads will probably be on Benito Floro’s speed dial after that first leg. Well, maybe not Osorio.
Vancouver did things the dramatic way to get here. In case you have been living under a rock and haven’t heard, the Whitecaps overturned a two goal first leg deficit at BC place to seal their spot in the final with a thumping 3-0 win in the second leg.
It was the most complete performance I’ve witnessed from a Whitecaps team in quite a while. After that lacklustre performance against New England on the weekend I hope that the team can switch it back on.
The last time that Vancouver and Toronto locked horns was probably one of our best MLS performances of the season. That was the game that Robbo stunned us with the 4-4-1-1, with Kekuta Manneh in the attacking midfielder position and Pedro Morales on the left wing. The TFC team this game will look very different to the first string side we saw when we left BMO Field with three points as they have five games coming up in the next 15 days. I expect a different tactical approach from Robbo to tackle this younger looking team.
In a recent interview, Greg Vanney has spoken of the importance of defending Vancouver in transition and making sure that players are not stranded in one on one situations. I think he expects Vancouver to sit deep in this first leg before doing the business at home. It’s a logical approach to take by the Vancouver management team, but it can go very badly if it we let in an early goal, which we are very capable of doing.
A major question will also be whether Robbo goes for youth or sticks with experience for this first leg. It’s often said that you can not win a tie in a first leg, but you can certainly lose one. An away goal could be crucial for the ‘Caps, so they have to try and come away from the game with at least that.
TACTICS AND LINE-UP DECISIONS:
We need a solid midfield core to make sure we don’t lose control of this game (See Ottawa FC first leg). Matias Laba is the key to a combative and involved midfield for this club. Russell Teibert can do what he does best and provide the defensive cover, if he gets the nod to start. Something Russell T does not get enough credit for is his passing play. He’s always looking to get open and provide a short and easy option. That is an extremely valuable asset in a ticking midfield.
Pedro Morales and Octavio Rivero will be available and fresh to go due to MLS suspensions, but with the fixture congestion coming up should they be rested? Erik Hurtado and Nicolas Mezquida have done well at times, so I don’t mind who plays against TFC and who plays against Philadelphia next weekend.
We know that Morales is capable of hurting Toronto. I could also see one of Kianz Froese, Marco Bustos and Alphonso Davies featuring before the end, most likely from the bench for the first two, but Davies is in with a good chance of getting another start to give Manneh a break.
Wing play will be vital for any opportunities Vancouver create on their counterattacking away set-up, and Christian Bolanos will likely feature on that right side.
I think Paolo Tornaghi should get the start as he was brilliant in the last round. The rest of the backline should be a mixture of cool heads and youthful exuberance. I can see Sam Adekugbe, Kendall Waston and Jordan Smith, with Pa Modou Kah possibly getting the start to give Tim Parker a much needed rest.
The gameplan will be to hit them on the break: get the ball to the midfield creators and hit it forward quickly. We don’t need a great result to be favourites to go win in the second leg. Defending has been a real problem for us, so things could get interesting if TFC get a goal and our gameplan has to change.
Will Robbo and Vanney go with a Canadian flavour in the starting line-ups?
Can we keep another clean sheet in the tournament?
Will our suspended DP duo start the game?
AFTN’S MAN TO WATCH:
Jonathan Osorio was very effective in the last round against Montreal. Look for him to combine with Jordan Hamilton again and provide the goal threat.
THE VIEW FROM 202 CREW’S PREDICTIONS:
Nick: 2-0 Toronto
Dan: 1-0 Vancouver. Davies goal in a smash and grab