It may just be the smallest cup competition in the world. The soccer
snobs can go ahead and ridicule a national championship with so few
contestants. But, like the Canadian weather, you have to live here to
True, there are only 4 competitors but don't be fooled into thinking it
isn't important. Year after year the fans have supported the Canadian
Championship, and if they think it's significant the clubs and their
players have a duty to take it seriously.
The 2012 edition is wide open. All four Canadian teams have reasons and
agendas for wanting to lift the Voyageurs Cup but unlike previous years
picking a favourite is almost impossible. For the health of the
competition itself, this is exactly how it should be.
Nobody wants a foregone conclusion. You can't expect the media to take
an interest or the paying customers to come out in force if the
competition lacks credibility. Yet in less than five years the Canadian
Championship has become something soccer fans in this country genuinely
look forward to every spring.
Partly because it is ours. This is a competition run by the Canadian
Soccer Association for the benefit of Canadian clubs. Our cousins to the
south have no involvement in these proceedings. It is a private party
where there is no need for two anthems before every game.
Rivalry is an odd term in a country so vast. When your closest
competitor is a five hour drive it seems nonsense to talk about bragging
rights. Yet there it is - right in the middle of the contest - on and
off the field, and absolutely fundamental to the longevity of the
The title of Canadian Champions is not to be taken lightly. This is not a
time to rest your senior players and allow those on the fringes a
chance to impress. Neither is it a time to blood a couple of youngsters
burning for an opportunity to make their first team debuts.
Toronto FC has carried the torch for the past three years. At first it
was a heavy crown to bear but gradually TFC has learned to represent
Canada with something approaching success. It is less than a month since
the fruits of their labours finally came to a painful end in northern
Scars take time to heal. The crushing defeat against Santos Laguna
combined with a disastrous start to the MLS season have negated much of
the good work and goodwill which sustained players and fans alike late
last year and over the winter months.
Without the Canadian Championship there would have been no fireworks at
the Rogers Centre. Close on 50-thousand descended on the dome to watch
TFC tackle the Galaxy's all-stars. It was a soccer event which moved the
needle, capturing the flair and atmosphere of some of the world's great
Toronto may have seen the last of it for a while. The defending
champions face an uphill struggle to retain their title. Not only has
Aron Winter's team been shell-shocked in recent weeks but for the first
time it must face opponents who are equally, if not better, equipped to
grab the glory for themselves.
Montreal has already beaten Toronto this year. The Impact, fresh from
its first ever MLS shut out and with home advantage, will be in buoyant
mood of building a first leg lead. The 2008 champions were Canada's
first representatives in the CONCACAF Champions League and the Impact
would like nothing more than to cap their first MLS season with a return
to the 'international' scene.
That's not the way they're thinking out west. No team is more determined
to stop that happening than the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Canadian
Championship has thus far eluded the Whitecaps but the circumstances
have, on occasion, been a long way short of satisfactory. 'Caps fans
feel, with some justification, they are due.
First things first for Martin Rennie's team. The Whitecaps should be too
strong for FC Edmonton over two legs but their Albertan opponents will
want to acquit themselves well at the very least. The Eddies' goalkeeper
is no stranger to the big game - Mike Misiewicz recently distinguished
himself during the Olympic qualifiers while attacking midfielder Shaun
Saiko will be looking to cash in at the other end.
Four teams all chasing the same goal. Three of them will be bitterly
disappointed. A tournament small in number but big in substance. Who
says size matters?
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