March 18, 2011 MLS--The First All-Canadian MLS Tilt (from MLSsoccer.com)
The First All-Canadian MLS Tilt
Toronto travels to Vancouver for First Kick Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET.
March 18, 2011
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Toronto FC at Empire Field in Vancouver, B.C.
First matchup in MLS. The teams have met six times in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. Toronto won the trophy twice, Vancouver has yet to finish first in the tournament.
Finally, the wait is over. The excitement level in Vancouver is at a fever pitch and now it’s time for the Whitecaps to make their introduction to MLS. Bragging rights will be on the line Saturday evening in the first-ever MLS match between the two Canadian sides.
Vancouver will look to replicate the successful home debuts of the last two expansion teams, the Seattle Sounders, who beat New York 3-0, and the Philadelphia Union, who topped D.C. United 3-2. The Whitecaps hope that their opening match will be equally unforgettable.
Toronto FC, on the other hand, enter their fifth season of existence, but with the club yet to register a playoff appearance, fans are beginning to grow impatient. After another unsuccessful season in 2010, the club went through an annual offseason overhaul in hopes that this latest rendition will finally yield glory.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
The 'Caps head into the MLS season as one of the great mysteries. They’ve been picked nearly unanimously by analysts to finish at or near the bottom of the league standings.
Much of that reasoning comes from the fact that only eight players on the roster have MLS experience, and three of them played with the Whitecaps in USSF D-2 last year.
The back line, anchored by US international Jay DeMerit at center back, is expected to be strong, but a lack of scoring was the major concern throughout the preseason. That fear, however, was partially quelled by the recent addition of 6-foot-4 French striker Eric Hassli, who became the club’s first-ever Designated Player.
A 3-5-1 preseason record against MLS competition will hardly inspire fear from Toronto, but many of those matches were even before Whitecaps FC head coach Teitur Thordarson began sending in substitutions. The ‘Caps haven’t been easy to beat in their lead-up matches, and they hope to be buoyed by a rabid home crowd to get their season off to a flying start.
“I think all the players are very excited because this is one of the biggest games of the season,” said Thordarson. “Not only because it’s the first game, but it’s also a Canadian derby and we are always looking forward to that, so that will give a little extra edge to the game.”
Five seasons, five different head coaches. That sums up the short history of Toronto FC pretty well. Dutchman Aron Winter is the latest man to try his luck, and he brings a new philosophy with him, as well as three players from his homeland to help implement his playing style. However, it may take time for the squad to fully gel.
"Obviously, it is going to take some time to adjust to a new system, a new philosophy, a new mentality, a new formation, a new everything," said Toronto forward Dwayne De Rosario. "How we adjust to that style within this league remains to be seen ... but hopefully we can get into groove early on in the season."
While several familiar faces have left and were replaced by fresh ones, a player who remains at TFC is De Rosario. The four-time MLS Cup winner created quite a stir went he went to train with Scottish club Celtic without consent from TFC, but he’s returned to play for Toronto and remains one of the most dangerous attacking players in the league.
Heroes & Villains
Teitur Thordarson vs. Aron Winter: Both men will be coaching for the first time in MLS, but they do so in differet situations. Thordarson has been at the helm in Vancouver for the past three seasons and is fully comfortable within the organization and city. The Icelandic tactician has seen slowly players brought in slowly for the past couple of years as he shaped the team for this very day.
Winter, meanwhile, was named TFC head coach in January and has had little time to shape his roster and implement the possession-based, attacking system he is seeking to project.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm"
It has been 27 years since Vancouver played at the highest level of professional soccer in North America.
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