Some people don’t care about the Voyageurs Cup. Even more have never heard of it. Then there are the few who believe that the teams competing for the cup should make it a paramount priority. No matter what group you belong to, it is hard to deny that the Canadian Championship has produced a fair share of drama over the years.
Last night another year of VCup semi-finals came to yet another dramatic conclusion when the Vancouver Whitecaps defeated FC Edmonton by the skin of their teeth. First of all, it must be said that FC Edmonton are on the verge of becoming something special. They have talented youth, most of whom are Canadian (dances with joy), a savvy coach, passionate owners and a growing fan base. Footy in North America will always have an uphill battle. In Edmonton, a city that lives for hockey, developing a fan base for a professional team that doesn’t play on ice is a challenge. Last night, 3803 fans packed into Clarke Field and cheered for their local team. As a long-time fan of Canadian soccer this gave me hope for the future. The home team gave them reason to cheer and hopefully many of the new faces transition to weekly support.
Edmonton head coach Colin Miller fielded a team that was close to the strongest he had available. In the other dugout, Carl Robinson decided to make a few changes to his lineup and included 4 MLS starters. The bench was entirely comprised of regular MLS starters including star striker, Octavio Rivero.
Vancouver scored early and controlled periods of the first half. At the half, Miller subbed in Fordyce who almost immediately changed the dynamics of the game. His desire to attack led the Eddies as they pressed for the equalizer. As time ticked away the Whitecaps absorbed sustained Edmonton pressure but fans were baffled when Robinson subbed in defensive midfielder Matias Laba. The Argentine is the best defensive midfielder in MLS. No questions asked. However, when your team is slowly being pinned back to its own 18 yard box, subbing in a forward like Rivero would have made Edmonton push forward with far greater caution. Sure enough Kendall Waston made a clumsy challenge on Frank Jonke and the Eddies were justly awarded a penalty kick of their own. Ameobi smashed it past Tornaghi and suddenly life was looking pretty good for Edmonton. Of course, that wasn’t the end of the drama. With less than a minute left, Morales sent in a deadly free kick which pinballed around inside the box. None other than Laba got on the end of it and beat Van Oekel five-hole to send his team to the VCup finals. Despite the fact that Vancouver continually underperformed over the course of both matches, Edmonton supporters should be very proud of their team.
Up until now I have likely endeared myself to many Edmonton fans. Now comes the one harsh reality that I cannot hold my tongue about. Last year, deep in injury time Edmonton were unjustly eliminated by Montreal thanks to a very sketchy call by the referee. While watching Twitter closely last night, a few people took issue with the free kick that lead to Vancouver’s winning goal. However, the vast majority of fans felt that the real issue was that 7 minutes of time added on was not warranted. Only minutes before, many of these same people were livid regarding time lost due to injuries and were wishing for between 6-8 minutes of injury time. The 4th official lifted his board to the skies and it read 7 minutes. Edmonton fans cheered. Vancouverites groaned. Edmonton almost immediately won a pk and tied the game. The clock counted down and it looked like the match would head to extra time. Of course, we all know what happened next. The immediate reaction from some Edmonton fans was that their team was screwed over by the refs for a second year in a row thanks to the length of injury time. That is simply not the case. Due to the Sampson injury and other time lost over the course of the match, every second of those 7 minutes was deserved.
So to Edmonton fans, with as much love and respect possible, I understand the psychology behind your feelings but you can’t have your cake and eat it too.