Another year another chance for the Vancouver Whitecaps to be crowned Champions of Canada and lift the Voyageurs Cup. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride. That is the summary of Whitecaps history in the Canadian Championship.
Last year the Whitecaps bowed out in the semi-final round, falling to Toronto FC after a dramatic round of penalty kicks. Carl Robinson surprised both fans and pundits alike when he started 5 young Canadians in Toronto against a star studded TFC lineup which included Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley. Two of those young Canadians were Kianz Froese and Marco Bustos, who at the time, were both still members of the Whitecaps Academy. Of course, they both have since signed MLS contracts with the first team.
It was revealed on the weekend that players signed to USL contracts will be ineligible to take part in the Canadian Championship. This means that USL standouts like Jackson Farmer and Mitch Piraux won’t be taking part in the semi-final match up against FC Edmonton. However, players with MLS contracts but who are on loan to Whitecaps FC 2, like Caleb Clarke and Ben McKendry, are available for selection.
Robinson revealed to reporters earlier this week that Paolo Tornaghi will get the start in goal rather than Canadian keeper Marco Carducci. I must express my disappointment at this news. Carducci played both matches against TFC last season and played well. He had a few moments where his inexperience reared its ugly head but he was thrown feet first into the fire and he performed well above his age and experience.
Fellow Canadians Sam Adekugbe, Kianz Froese, Marco Bustos, Caleb Clarke and Ben McKendry are all shoo-ins to make the game day roster and perhaps even the starting eleven. Russell Teibert will more likely than not wear the armband for Vancouver. With many youngsters likely to start for Vancouver, Carl Robinson will likely have a few more experienced members from his senior squad ready on the bench. After starting the MLS season with a bang, scoring 5 goals in 6 matches, Octavio Rivero is now on a 4 match drought. Getting him some minutes as a substitute in Edmonton could do wonders for his confidence. An appearance by Robert Earnshaw is also in the cards. The Welsh striker endeared himself to home fans when he scored the winning goal against the Portland Timbers but has since seen limited action.
FC Edmonton has been gradually building a team not to be trifled with. Last year they came within seconds of upsetting the Montreal Impact. However, do not be mistaken. Last season the Impact were a very poor team. Currently sitting first place in MLS, tied with 3 other teams, the 2015 version of the Whitecaps is a very different beast. That being said there is a 0% chance that Robinson will start his MLS lineup against FC Edmonton. This is not a slight to the Eddies but rather a testament to the depth that Robbo has at his disposal. A roster comprised largely of members belonging to Vancouver’s “B team” could have a real battle on their hands against a very driven FC Edmonton squad.
Ex-assistant coach of Vancouver, now head coach of FC Edmonton, Colin Miller has compiled a roster full of promise. With the likes of Lance Laing, Tomi Ameobi and Sainey Nyassi, Edmonton, like Vancouver, has speed to hit teams on the counter. This could make the VCup semi-final action packed if both teams are continually looking to counter each other.
Edmonton is between a rock and hard place. If they are to have any chance of defeating Vancouver and advancing to the VCup finals they must score at least 2 goals while ultimately shutting out Vancouver in the first leg. Then they must go on the road and park the bus in Vancouver. This is easier said than done. Any road goal scored by the Whitecaps would be a letdown for the Eddies and the list of teams that have managed to repel Vancouver at home is indeed short.
Last night I made a guest appearance on Co. River Valley and discussed the upcoming match. Click here and fast forward to 30:40 to hear my interview.