Holding a two-goal advantage from last week’s first leg, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-0L-0D in ACC) host North American Soccer League (NASL) side FC Edmonton (0W-1L-0D in ACC) in the second leg of their 2012 Amway Canadian Championship (ACC) semifinal on Wednesday evening.
Martin Rennie’s side return to Bell Pitch at BC Place just four days after earning a memorable 2-1 victory over Western Conference rivals San Jose Earthquakes in an eventful Major League Soccer clash on Saturday afternoon. Currently on a four-match winning streak, the ‘Caps look to book their ticket into this year’s ACC final by getting past their Western Canadian rivals in Wednesday’s second leg, with the Blue and White hosting The Eddies for the first time in club history.
Wednesday’s ACC semifinal, second leg, between Whitecaps FC and FC Edmonton at BC Place kicks off at 8 p.m. PT.
AMWAY CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP
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.
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 winner 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.
The month of May could not have started better for Whitecaps FC. Last Wednesday’s professional performance in Edmonton put Rennie’s squad in pole position to win this ACC semifinal series. The ‘Caps will be in high spirits following last Saturday’s dramatic events at BC Place. Though Vancouver left it late to earn three valuable MLS points versus San Jose, their performance – particularly their second-half display versus the Earthquakes – offered an exciting glimpse into the potential Whitecaps FC have as an attacking side this season. The past week has been a particular boost of confidence to striker Eric Hassli after the big Frenchman scored two goals in as many matches, including Saturday’s match winner deep into stoppage time against San Jose.
Still, the task of playing a third match out of a possible eight this month will likely prompt Rennie into making some changes from the line-up that played on the weekend. The Scottish coach would have been encouraged by the performances of his younger players in Edmonton last week, so it remains to be seen if he shows faith with those players on Wednesday night.
It is an uphill task facing Harry Sinkgraven’s squad this week. With FC Edmonton still searching for their first-ever win in the ACC, the Alberta-based outfit will need to overcome the two goals they conceded at Commonwealth Stadium, if they are to have a chance of turning this semifinal series around. The Eddies do make the trip to Canada’s west coast in good spirits after claiming their first win of the season on Sunday, as they earned a 3-0 home win over Carolina RailHawks in NASL action. Edmonton native Shaun Saiko struck a second-half hat-trick in the victory at Clarke Field, with the midfielder earning the NASL’s Offensive Player of the Week award for his efforts.
FC Edmonton 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 will be the second all-time meeting between Whitecaps FC and FC Edmonton and the first time Vancouver have hosted the second-year NASL club. However, this year’s ACC semifinal is 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 37 times and clubs from Alberta 65 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 perfect 5W-0L record versus the Drillers in Vancouver. During the Canadian Soccer League era, Vancouver registered a 19W-1L-1D overall record versus Edmonton Brick Men, including a home record of 10W-0L-1D 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 0W-1L-1D home record that year. In fact, the last time Whitecaps FC hosted a club from Edmonton was in USL-1 on July 4, 2004, as the Aviators defeated Vancouver 3-2 at Swangard Stadium. In all, Whitecaps FC have a 30W-5L-2D all-time record against clubs from Edmonton, including an overall home record of 15W-1L-2D.
There are several more connections between both clubs. Whitecaps FC midfielders Bryce Alderson and Russell Teibert played alongside FC Edmonton midfielder Saiko and goalkeeper Michal Misiewicz 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.
THEN OFF TO MASSACHUSETTS…
Following Wednesday’s ACC semifinal, second leg, Whitecaps FC are back on the road for their next MLS encounter, as they travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts, to take on Eastern Conference side New England Revolution on Saturday. Kickoff from Gillette Stadium is set for 4:30 p.m. PT