Toronto FC vs Ottawa Fury: Voyageurs Cup Time! Is This The Turning Point For TFC?
Toronto FC vs Ottawa Fury ~ 730pm ET ~ TD Place Stadium ~ canadasoccer.com (live stream)
Forget MLS, say adieu to the World Cup, instead turn your attention to the Voyageurs Cup; that’s what Toronto FC have to do over the next week. With a playoff spot slipping further away every week, winning the Voyageurs Cup is TFC’s only realistic way of bringing meaning to this season. Last year’s win of course saw them gain entry into the Concacaf Champions League and come a missed penalty (or ball sailing over the crossbar) away from becoming the first MLS team to hoist the trophy. Toronto need something positive from this season, and repeating as the Canadian Champions would certainly do that.
Their semi-final opponent is the Ottawa Fury – the same team they played last year – a club that has been unique in its focus on Canadian players, bringing a number on board in the past year including former Toronto FC players (young) Nana Attakora, David Monsalve, and Chris Manella. Attakora and fellow Canadian Maxim Tissot both played for the now defunct San Francisco Deltas last season, with Attakora captaining the side to the NASL championship. The Fury are currently lower mid-table in USL, but would certainly like to get some revenge on the team that ousted them in last year’s Voyageurs Cup.
As for us the fans? We love the Voyageurs Cup – it may still be a wee tournament, but it’s slowly growing and with the Canadian Premier League launching next year it will continue to do so, truly something that Canadian soccer fans have wanted for years. The tournament still has a ways to go to approach the US Open Cup, or the heady heights of the FA Cup, but they all have to start somewhere and this year’s inclusion of League 1 Ontario and the Première Ligue de soccer du Québec champions was very welcome. Regardless of who’s playing, I love this tournament, not just because it leads to the CCL (though that’s delightful regardless of TFC’s current woes), but because it’s our tournament and a truly homegrown venture – make sure you hug a Voyageur (or buy them a drink) for getting this started all those years ago.
As for Toronto FC, this could give the team a fresh start – yes they’re still dealing with the same injury woes, and the same questions about their defense and overall team play – but the Voyageurs Cup is always a little different, it’s a different focus and quite often it’s different players. More often than not TFC have fielded a youth and Canadian heavy line-up in VCup matches, usually because they didn’t take it all that seriously, but the past couple of years have seen a mix of that approach and first team veterans (though they seemed to take the Fury rather lightly last year in the away leg).
It’s hard to peg what Greg Vanney will do with his lineup in tonight’s match; there remains an air of mystery around several of the injured players, the Canadian kids that have been in Vanney’s starting XI of late have done quite well. And then there’s Jozy Altidore – he’s been out since the end of March but was an unused sub in last Saturday’s loss to Orlando – is this the chance to get him some minutes in hopes that he can step back into the team and help resurrect Toronto’s MLS season. I expect that we’ll see Jay Chapman, Ryan Telfer and Liam Fraser all starting tonight – along with Oso and Jordan Hamilton. The rest? Could Clint Irwin get another return to his old stomping grounds, will we see some new defenders? Probably – as important as this is to Toronto FC, there’s also an MLS game this weekend and the team hasn’t given up on the season just yet. While I think TFC will win the series, much like last year I think they’ll lose tonight’s match, so I’m sticking with my 2-1 Fury win from this week’s podcast.