Toronto FC gunning to get back Canadian Championship title they lost to Impact
Tuesday, May 27, 2014 04:15 pm
TORONTO - Bradley Orr said that every kid's dream growing up playing soccer in England was to hoist a cup.
So he and his Toronto FC teammates say they will have no problem getting up for their Amway Canadian Championship final against rival Montreal Impact, even if the result doesn't count toward Major League Soccer standings.
"No, not at all. I love cup games. There's a prize at the end of it," the Toronto defender said after practice Tuesday. "Back in England it was the FA Cup, now that we're here it's the Canadian Cup, and it's just as important for me as any league game, because there's pride at stake and there's a lot to play for. It's a big game, no doubt about it, and one we're looking forward to."
Toronto hosts Montreal for the first of two legs Wednesday at BMO Field. The second leg is June 4 at Saputo Stadium in Montreal. The team with the higher aggregate score after the two matches also represents Canada in the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League.
"Very very important," captain Steven Caldwell said. "We want to win the Cup. We obviously want to get a good lead if we can from the first leg, it's going to be tough, we're playing our rivals, a very good side, who are . . . far better than they've been showing."
Toronto is hoping to reclaim the title they relinquished to Montreal last season. TFC won the championship four straight years — from 2009 through 2012 — while the Impact won the inaugural competition in 2008 and again last year.
"It's Canadian pride here," Toronto-born defender Ashtone Morgan said on the importance of the matches. "I think last year we had a sour taste in our mouth and we're looking to bounce back this year, and looking to get the trophy."
Dwayne De Rosario is tied for the tournament all-time lead in goals with four, and won back-to-back tournament MVP honours, in 2009 and '10.
The 2009 victory was De Rosario's first playing with his hometown team in Toronto, after holding MLS jobs with the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo.
"For me it was a first championship coming back home, a championship for my city, a championship for TFC, and it was a special moment," De Rosario said. "And hopefully I can create another special moment tomorrow and win back that trophy for this club."
Toronto is 7-1-2 all-time against the Impact in Canadian Championship action and are the favourites this season against a Montreal team that is struggling through a horrendous start to the season. TFC has four wins, four losses and one draw in MLS games, while Montreal is 1-6-4 and last in the league.
Toronto coach Ryan Nelsen warned though that not only is Montreal a better team than this season's results indicate, but standings and recent results don't mean much when a championship trophy is on the line.
"Very dangerous team, very good team," Nelsen said of the Impact. "They're just having a little bit of a bad run at the moment. When you come to this competition, form doesn't really matter, it kind of goes out the window. I've watched a lot of their games, and they have been unlucky in quite a few of them; they've had opportunities to win the games, but it hasn't fallen their way. You know the quality they have, they'll get it right."
Toronto defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 at home and then 5-3 on penalty kicks in Vancouver to reach the final. The Impact battled back to beat second-division side FC Edmonton to earn their spot in the final.
It was a confident TFC team that practised Wednesday morning at their training ground north of the city, after salvaging a 2-2 draw at Sporting Kansas City — the defending league champions — last Friday.
Toronto managed a draw despite losing Caldwell to a red card in the 63rd minute.
"We're very pleased with the result, not the performance particularly but at the end of the day we're judged on points. . . We'll take that in a very tough place to play," Caldwell said. "They were obviously a better team and we couldn't get anything going all night, and then with the sending off, and the penalty (awarded to Kansas City in the 84th minute for a Doneil Henry foul in the box). . . we felt even the 50-50 decisions were going against us. But we'll take the draw and move on. Excited for (Wednesday) night."
Caldwell's red card will keep him out of Saturday's MLS game against the visiting Columbus Crew, but he'll be available Wednesday to a Toronto lineup that won't differ much from last Friday. Nelsen said midfielders Jonathan Osorio (hamstring) and Jackson Goncalves (concussion) won't play, while Luke Moore (groin) is questionable. Collen Warner, recently acquired in a trade with Montreal, is ineligible to play because he's cup-tied to the Impact.
Nelsen was already in good spirits Wednesday but the coach brightened considerably when asked his thoughts on Queens Park Rangers' promotion to the Premier League.
"Brilliant. Absolutely fantastic," said Nelsen, who ended his playing career with QPR.
The squad that Nelsen played two seasons for defeated Derby 1-0 last weekend to earn promotion. Bobby Zamora scored the decisive goal, pouncing on a defensive miscue by Derby in the 90th minute.
"Football is a funny game . . . when you're down to 10 men, as long as you stay in the game, you generally get that one chance. It couldn't have been more obvious than that QPR game," Nelsen said. "Bobby took it brilliantly like he has for his whole career. I can imagine there were a few celebrations that night."
Nelsen said he is still emotionally tied to QPR, as he is to every team he's played for, saying he still has good friends not only with that club but DC United, Blackburn, and Tottenham.
"You get so emotionally involved because you go through so many highs and lows and people don't really understand how low the lows are and how high the highs are, that you become friends and you make friends," he said. "And when you do things for other people and they do things for you, that are unforgettable things that imprint on your life, and your memories, you obviously stay friends."