By KURTIS LARSON
Toronto FC completed a three-game road swing in Burnaby, British Columbia with a 0-0 draw against the Whitecaps in Canadian Cup play Wednesday night. Following a shutout win at Montreal and a hard fought draw at the Home Depot Center, TFC faced an inspired Whitecaps side that was playing for their tournament life. The scoreless draw keeps Vancouver in the Nutrilite competition, but only by a thread.
TFC was playing without the services of injured Julian De Guzman while Vancouver lined up without playmaker Martin Nash. The absences of both players lead to a defensive opening half hour with neither side looking to get in behind on the attack. Needing a full three points at home, Vancouver were first to settle down and take hold of play looking to press the issue more than Toronto. Though never overly threatening, the Whitecaps were better in possession for much of the game with young forwards Marcus Haber and Cornelius Stewart providing energy and pace up top. Stewart, a young prospect out St. Vincent and the Grenadines, proved most dangerous through the opening stages of the match giving Toronto’s defense fits with his speed and ability to take on defenders at pace.
In the 41st minute the Vincentian international provided the best scoring chance of the game after receiving a through ball from Ansu Toure. Stewart received the pass at the left side of the box, cut inside and drove a low hard cross through the six-yard-box that was just out of a lunging Haber’s reach. Vancouver would enjoy the second best opportunity of the game in the 68th minute when Stewart turned with a pass at the half before turning and running at Toronto’s defense. The 20-year-old tested the aging Nick Garcia with an inside-out move bringing the ball to his left foot before blasting a shot over the bar from the top of the box.
Toronto never really looked like scoring and were clearly happy with ending a long road spell with a point in Vancouver. If you would have told the Reds they would embark on cross-country road trip with stops at the undefeated L.A. Galaxy and two national rivals in just seven days, all the while not allowing a goal, they would have written it off as mere fantasy. Second-choice keeper Jon Conway preserved the shutout streak for Toronto FC who sit on seven points from three games in the tournament. Vancouver sit on just two points from a possible six.
Toronto FC hasn’t allowed a goal in over 320 minutes in all competition and will wait to see what Vancouver does in the fifth game of the Canadian Championship. The Whitecaps need two wins from their final two tournament matches at Montreal and BMO Field. Anything less than six points will see TFC claim their second consecutive Nutrilite title and receive a place in the CONCACAF qualifying round.
Yesterday in New York it was determined that Canada’s entry into the continental tournament will see the winner of the Canadian championship play Honduran runner-up C.D. Motagua, with the Canadian team playing host on July 26 with the return leg in Honduras on Aug. 2. It should be noted that Motagua is the current club of former Toronto FC midfielder and MLS MVP Amado Guevara although the Honduran international has hinted at retirement following this summer’s World Cup.
CANADIAN CLUB SCENE
Montreal Impact – Overshadowed by the Canadian Championship, Montreal defeated Portland Wednesday night at PGE Park 1-0 on a first half goal from Tony Donatelli. The win lifted the Impact into first place in the NASL Conference over the rival Whitecaps. Next up for Montreal is an international friendly vs. Fiorentina this Sunday followed by Canadian Cup action Wednesday. Will the Impact do their best to knock Vancouver out of the Nutrilite competition or will they roll over once again like in the final game of last year’s tournament?
Vancouver Whitecaps – Travel to the east coast for a league match in Rochester Saturday before visiting Stade Saputo mid-week in a must win Canadian Cup game. A win over Rochester puts the ‘Caps back in first place in the NASL conference. A win over the impact in cup play will set up one of the biggest games in the Canadian Cup’s short history at BMO Field June 2.
FC Edmonton – Recently signed Dutch midfielder Paul Matthijs. The 33-year-old will leave current club BV Veendam of the Dutch second division to bring experience in Edmonton’s inaugural season.
Toronto FC – Home to the New England Revolution this Saturday in MLS play. A full three points will see Toronto within striking distance of the Eastern Conference lead. TFC will be without team-leading goal scorer Dwayne De Rosario who was called into the Canadian national side for a friendly against Argentina on Monday. It was originally thought that Julian De Guzman would be traveling alongside De Rosario to Argentina, but latest reports are that a slight knock has him back with TFC preparing for their weekend MLS fixture. It’s possible De Guzman could be available this weekend.
CANADIAN NATIONAL TEAM UPDATE
The CSA released its roster late last week for Monday’s nationally televised game in Argentina.
My starting 11:
Will Canada play this game straight up or bunker for 90+ minutes? It’s an intriguing fixture simply to see where Canada stands heading into the next Gold Cup. But what kind of side will Stephan Hart put out? Will they defend with 10 men or look to make a game of it and take chances moving forward? Julian De Guzman did not make the trip following a hamstring injury that has ruled him out for TFC’s past two weeks.
It’s all but confirmed that Argentina will field a competitive side somewhat resembling the 11 they will put out in South Africa. If Argentina’s talented midfield proves too much for the Canadians to contain, this game could get out of hand. But if Canada can somehow defend as a unit and counter on a weak Argentine backline, the game could be closer than once thought. That said, is a weak Argentine back-line still light years more talented than Canada’s best attackers?
Canadian head coach Stephen Hart contacted and attempted to call in Blackburn’s David Hoilett who turned down the offer and is still deciding whether to play for Jamaica or Canada.