Tonight the Canadian Championship begins. Just in case you didn’t know, sports fans in Montreal and Toronto don’t like each other, at all. That extends to MLS.
A bumper crowd is expected at BMO Field this evening, as Ryan Nelsen gets his first taste of the Amway Canadian Championship.
“It is a big game, especially with the Champions League spot up for grabs,” Nelsen said. “We are looking to bring the passion and intensity to the field that the fans bring and to get in a good position for when we go away to Montreal.”
Nelsen also demands a “ruthless” display from his side as the Canadian rivals lock horns for the first-time since Montreal defeated Toronto 2-1 last month in MLS action. But teams will be hoping to reach the CONCACAF Champions League, a feat only the ACC winners will achieve.
Five Canadian Championships have been contested in history, with Toronto winning four of them. But Montreal has fond memories of playing in the ACC at BMO Field.
The Impact won the first-ever Canadian Championship, back in 2008, by sealing a 1-1 tie with Toronto in a round-robin format, when Montreal were a USL franchise.
But with Montreal now firmly acquitting themselves as a force in MLS, the rivalry between the clubs from Ontario and Quebec has intensified further.
As Impact homegrown defender Karl W. Ouimette explains; “There is a lot of pride that comes from a tournament like this.”
With TFC fans travelling to the Olympic Stadium in force earlier this season — an MLS record of over 4,000 visiting Toronto fans made the trip — the atmosphere for both legs should be electric.
But let’s not forget about the two other Canadian teams battling it out in the West. Vancouver take on FC Edmonton of the NASL on Wednesday, with Edmonton’s players chomping at the bit to showcase their skills at the next level.
However the ‘Caps are more than up for the battle. “I think it’s really important to this team to win this trophy, to become the best team in Canada,” Ontario native Russell Teibert said.
With a CCL spot on the line, the ACC will be an intriguing battle this season. My prediction, a Montreal vs. Vancouver final. But there is still plenty of soccer left to play North of the border to prove me wrong.