Voyageurs Cup Time! Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact – It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
Tonight Toronto FC get their first kick at the Voyageurs Cup as they travel to Montreal for the away leg (home leg is next Wednesday) to take on the somewhat sad Montreal Impact. For myself and a group of dedicated fans the Voyageurs Cup is one of our favourite times of year on the schedule for Canadian MLS and NASL teams – we look forward to these games all year as something special, as something that matters, as something a bit different. There is such a different energy to these games; if you’ve never attended (and having gone to all of them a lot of folks haven’t), it’s hard to explain the vibe and the buzz in the crowd and the atmosphere but it’s there -really, you should go to a game, trust me.
This year’s edition of the tournament decides next year’s entrant into the CCL so there isn’t a huge commitment in terms of games later on this year, which means only an additional four games and no trips to (more) hostile away grounds. However even given that it is unlikely that TFC will focus much of their attention on these games as the ultimate focus is reaching the playoffs. And I get that, I do. As a long suffering fan that’s watched their team find new and creative ways to miss the playoffs each year, yes I’d like to see them finally get over that hurdle. And I know that this week in particular all the focus is on the long awaited home opener (six months since we’ve seen them at BMO) and all of the expectation and anticipation that goes along with that. However, given that they don’t have to worry about playing in the CCL tournament later on this year I’d like to see them at least make an attempt to win these games. I don’t mind seeing the kids play, but this isn’t meant as a training exercise – there’s value in mixing in your regular starters with some of the USL or bench players – come on Vanney, pretend to care about it just a little. Please?
Looking at the players that TFC are taking with them: Chris Konopka, Quillan Roberts, Damien Perquis, Nick Hagglund, Ashtone Morgan, Justin Morrow, Eriq Zavaleta, Marky Delgado, Warren Creavalle, Chris Mannella, Jonathan Osorio, Jay Chapman, Daniel Lovitz, Michael Bradley, Collen Warner, Benoit Cheyrou, Luke Moore and Jordan Hamilton; it’s clear that this will be a run out for some of the underused and USL players. Which as I said isn’t a terrible thing as long as that’s not the only thing. I’m happy to see some of the first team players travelled, even if they don’t play the entire game at least they’re going to feature.
Left at home of course are the walking (or hobbling) wounded, the other two DPs, Jackson (who may be nursing a knock from the game in Philly) and Robbie Findley (no great loss IMO) – so not quite half of the first team. For an away leg as you’re coming to the end of a long road trip, that’s not a terrible choice. Hopefully TFC have a solid first half with the first teamers and can rotate them out in the second in advance of Sundays’ game against Houston.
Montreal are of course just coming off almost winning the CCL against Club America; an astonishing feat given the woeful nature of their play in MLS this year and last. However, you always have to be wary not just of the wounded animal mentality of a team that got routed in the end, but also that this is a grudge match (as is any match between our two teams) and that tensions tend to run high during these games. The Impact will be looking for some redemption after their loss in the CCL final, but also to show that they’re better than their current MLS record.
The Impact aren’t going into this game without some weapons of their own in Jack McInerney, Kenny Cooper and Ignacio Piatti – oh and of course Dominic Oduro (you think I’m kidding but you know that he’s going to score) – they are hit by a fair number of injuries to their backline (boy this feels familiar) and also have a league game coming up this weekend. Frank Klopas will have to do some juggling to have a solid lineup and Toronto’s tendency to field younger players could work out in his favour.
This should be a good game – there is the energy that comes to this tournament games but also from seeing little used players have a chance to prove themselves. That is the part about playing the kids that is kind of good, they have something to prove and only a short window of time in which to prove it. Expect a fast-paced game, expect some physicality and expect there to not be a sell-out at Stade Saputo (or at BMO next week for that matter); but expect it to be intense. After all, it’s for the VCup.