ACC Preview: 'Caps begin Canadian quest in Edmonton
FC EDMONTON vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC
COMMONWEALTH STADIUM, Edmonton, Alberta, May 2, 2012
Amway Canadian Championship semifinal first leg
10 pm ET (Sportsnet West, Sportsnet Pacific)
Fresh off a big road victory in Major League Soccer, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4W-2L-2D in MLS) begin their quest to win a first-ever Voyageurs Cup title when they visit North American Soccer League side FC Edmonton (0W-3L-1D in NASL) in the first leg of their 2012 Amway Canadian Championship (ACC) semifinal series on Wednesday evening.
Martin Rennie’s side will be in buoyant mood heading into the competition after defeating Columbus Crew over the weekend. Whitecaps FC have little time to reflect on their league success in Ohio, as the Alberta provincial capital becomes Vancouver’s next port of call for a first-ever meeting with Harry Sinkgraven’s squad. Commonwealth Stadium will be the venue for this week’s first leg, with the ‘Caps making their first visit to Edmonton in nearly four years for this all-Western Canadian clash.
Wednesday’s ACC semifinal, first leg, between Whitecaps FC and FC Edmonton from Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta, kicks off at 7 pm PT and is live on Sportsnet Pacific and West regions. 'Caps fans can also listen to Wednesday’s match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5 pm PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show. Fans can also follow Wednesday’s first leg on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.
AMWAY CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP
WATCH: Rennie on Canadian challenge
As in 2011, this year’s Amway Canadian Championship will be contested by four Canadian clubs: Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal from MLS, as well as Edmonton from the second-tier NASL. The tournament will consist of a home-and-away semifinal stage followed by a home-and-away championship final series. The semifinal pairings were based on the final standings of the four clubs in their respective leagues last season.
Three-time defending champions Toronto FC are the top seed, while last year’s runners-up Whitecaps FC are the second seed after The Reds finished above Vancouver in MLS in 2011. FC Edmonton are the third seed after finishing above MLS expansion side Montreal Impact in the 2011 NASL standings, as the Quebec club were part of North America’s second division last year.
In the semifinals, Whitecaps FC face FC Edmonton in the first leg in the Alberta provincial capital on Wednesday before hosting the NASL outfit at BC Place on Wednesday, May 9. The other semifinal series sees Montreal hosting Toronto FC at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in the first leg on Wednesday before the Voyageurs Cup holders host the decisive second leg at Toronto's BMO Field on May 9. The two-leg championship final series will be played on Wednesday, May 16, and Wednesday, May 23. The highest-seeded team in the final will earn the right to determine whether they open the final series at home or on the road.
During the semifinal and final series, if both clubs are level on aggregate over the two games, the 'Away Goals' rule will be used to determine the series winner (ie: the club that scores the most goals on the road over the two games). If the 'Away Goals' rule does not produce a result (ie: both teams have scored the same number of goals at home and away), then two 15-minute periods of extra time will be played at the end of the second leg. If, during extra time, both teams score the same number of goals, the visiting team will win the series on the strength of the number of 'Away Goals' they have scored in the extra-time period. If no goals are scored during extra time, the series will then be determined with a penalty shootout.
The winners of the 2012 Amway Canadian Championship not only claim the Voyageurs Cup title and the bragging rights as Canada's top club, they will also represent Canada in the 2012-13 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, where they will play the top clubs in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The winner of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League title will then represent the confederation at the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco.
All four clubs submitted their rosters for this year’s Amway Canadian Championship last week. Clubs were able to submit up to 30 names for the competition, with condensed 23-player lists to be submitted 48 hours in advance of each match. Clubs can dress 18 players for each match, of which 11 will start and three can enter as substitutes.
May is shaping up to be a very busy month for Whitecaps FC, with Rennie’s squad facing the possibility of playing eight matches over the next four weeks. Though they face many games in a short space of time, the ‘Caps will be a confident bunch after a pair of one-goal victories put them alone in third place in the MLS Western Conference standings. For Rennie, the midweek contest gives him a chance to extend his undefeated coaching record versus FC Edmonton. As Carolina RailHawks head coach last season, Rennie went 3W-0L-1D against The Eddies. With Carolina, Whitecaps FC striker Etienne Barbara scored twice and midfielder Matt Watson scored once against the Alberta club.
An important boost for Whitecaps FC has been the return to full training of nearly the entire first-team squad, with only goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre still sidelined with his recovery from knee surgery. It means Rennie may be able to call upon the likes of left fullback Alain Rochat and striker Camilo Sanvezzo, who missed out on Saturday’s win in Columbus. The ‘Caps were also delighted to see 2012 MLS SuperDraft pick Darren Mattocks training again following his recovery from burns to his upper right arm and shoulder.
After a promising first season, in which FC Edmonton finished fifth in the eight-club NASL standings before losing in the playoff quarterfinals to Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 2012 has not started off as well for The Eddies. The Alberta club come into Wednesday’s match still in search of their first win of the season. Sinkgraven’s side suffered defeats to Fort Lauderdale and Tampa Bay Rowdies in Florida before earning their first point of the season versus Puerto Rico Islanders in the Caribbean. Their last encounter was The Eddies’ home opener at Clarke Stadium on April 22, as they fell 4-3 to defending NASL champions Minnesota Stars FC. FC Edmonton are also looking for their first win in the ACC after losing both legs of last year’s semifinal to Toronto FC.
The Eddies include four players that will be familiar to Whitecaps FC supporters. Kyle Porter, Antonio Rago, and Alex Semenets were all members of the inaugural Whitecaps FC Residency squad when the full-time program started in September 2007. Centre back Paul Hamilton, meanwhile, played the 2009 United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League season with the ‘Caps Residency team.
Wednesday’s match is the first-ever meeting between Whitecaps FC and FC Edmonton, but not the first time the Blue and White have played opposition from the city of Edmonton or the province of Alberta.
Dating back to 1979, Whitecaps FC played teams from Edmonton 36 times and clubs from Alberta 64 times. This included 11 meetings versus Edmonton Drillers in the old NASL between 1979 and 1982, with the ‘Caps registering an 8W-3L record overall and a 3W-3L record in Edmonton during that time. During the Canadian Soccer League era, Vancouver registered a 19W-1L-1D overall record versus Edmonton Brick Men, including a road record of 9W-1L-0D between 1987 and 1990. In the United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) season of 2004, Whitecaps FC registered a 2W-1L-1D record versus Edmonton Aviators, including a 2W-0L-0D road record that year. In all, Whitecaps FC have a 29W-5L-2D record against clubs from Edmonton, including an overall record of 14W-4L-0D in the Alberta provincial capital. Whitecaps FC’s last visit to Edmonton and Commonwealth Stadium was for a friendly on May 13, 2008, as the USL-1 ‘Caps defeated MLS club LA Galaxy 2-1 in front of a crowd of 37,104.
There are several more connections between both clubs. Whitecaps FC midfielders Bryce Alderson and Russell Teibert played alongside FC Edmonton goalkeeper Michal Misiewicz and midfielder Shaun Saiko in Canada’s U-23 Olympic team at the 2012 CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying tournament in the United States. FC Edmonton goalkeeper David Monsalve was teammates with Whitecaps FC assistant coach Carl Robinson at Toronto FC.