Amway Canadian Championship

Vancouver joins Montreal in Canadian final; CONCACAF Champions League berth decided in August

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The Vancouver Whitecaps moved one step closer to breaking their Canadian Championship hex with a last-gasp win over FC Edmonton of the NASL on Thursday night.

Matias Laba’s goal in the 7th minute of second-half stoppage time gave the ‘Caps a 2-1 win, 3-2 on aggregate, in their semifinal.

[ MORE: U.S. Open Cup second round wrap ]

Montreal defeated Toronto FC in the other semifinal, meaning Vancouver’s wishes of a CONCACAF Champions League berth will be granted or denied over two legs with the current CCL runners-up.

The Impact will be looking for their third-straight Canadian Championship, having defeated TFC and Vancouver in recent campaigns.

Toronto won four consecutive tournaments before that, and Montreal won the first. In the middle of all that, Vancouver lost a remarkable five title games in-a-row (the first four to TFC and the fifth against Montreal).

The Eddies loss means the final will be conducted without the tournament’s leading scorer. Tomi Ameobi, between brothers Shola (Crystal Palace) and Sammy (Newcastle United) on the family tree, scored four goals.

Amway Canadian Championship, soon with more teams from … Canada!

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While the soccer nerds among us love the U.S. Open Cup for all its charm, history and potential for big upsets, the proceedings can sometimes miss a smidge of competitive bite. Major League Soccer teams, stars of the show, sometimes talk a big game when it comes to regard for this grand old tourney – but don’t always deliver when it comes to roster selection.

Now, if we talk about Canada … those teams really, really do care about their national championship. In addition to national pride, the winner gains Canada’s spot in CONCACAF Champions League.

Perhaps the comparison to U.S. Open Cup is a bit apples-to-oranges, but the point is the same: Canada’s four professional clubs are quite passionate about the brief Amway Canadian Championship competition, which annually crowns the best from our northern neighbors.

Montreal hosts Toronto in Wednesday’s second leg of their semifinal series; Ryan Nelsen’s visitors carry a 2-0 lead into tonight’s match at Stade Saputo.

In the other second leg contest, Vancouver host Edmonton at BC Place. Martin Rennie’s Whitecaps are in a strong position, holding a 3-2 lead after last week’s first leg at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

Word is emerging now on how year’s Canadian Championship will operate when a fifth side joins the tournament; A team from Ottawa is set join the NASL, the second tier of professional soccer in our parts, in 2014.

Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani told MLSSoccer.com that Edmonton and Ottawa will probably meet in a play-in series in 2014, with the winner advancing into the semifinals alongside the three MLS clubs (Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto).

Canadian Championship begins as old foes Montreal, Toronto clash

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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.

The wonderful Schizophrenia of Toronto FC

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On Wednesday night, Toronto FC played a man down for more than an hour, defended its home turf, and defeated the Montreal Impact 2-0. The win — the crew’s first in nearly two months — has them marching into the final of the Amway Canadian Championship. They will meet a Vancouver squad they defeated last year, a victory that gave TFC a berth in the 2011-2012 CONCACAF Champions League. In that tournament, they reached the knockout stage, defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy, and drew a match with Mexican powerhouse Santos Laguna in the first leg of the semifinal before succumbing .

For those keeping score at home, that’s 0 wins in Major League Soccer, a semifinal appearance in the best tournament in the region, and a second-straight trip to the Canadian national championship.

This team is great. Has any team ever had more success internationally and domestically while being so horrible in MLS? (For the record, TFC finished 16th in MLS last season with a league-worst -23 goal differential.)

Next question: When will TFC win an MLS game? Um… the 16th in D.C., a match squeezed in between the two-leg Amway final? Doubtful. At home against Philadelphia on the 26th? It better be then, because June starts with trips to Kansas City and Houston.

My money? 6/23 at home against New England. That’s more than three months after First Kick.

(As for the Impact, well, they’ll be running in practice. Manager Jesse Marsch was, shall we say, less than pleased with the loss to TFC: “I saw 11 guys that weren’t ready for a real game. And if you show up to play like that, I don’t care who it is, I don’t care where you’re going — especially in a cup match, it’s an elimination game — you’re going to get your ass whupped and that’s what happened to us tonight. We were second on every single play. In the end, we just got outcompeted.”)