3 things to watch as Vancouver Whitecaps, Toronto FC clash in 2022 Canadian Championship final
VANCOUVER – After three intriguing rounds of action, an eventful 2022 edition of the Canadian Championship is reaching its conclusion on Tuesday evening, as the Vancouver Whitecaps host Toronto FC in the tournament final at BC Place (10PM ET / 7PM PT, available on OneSoccer).
It's the fifth final between the two teams in this tournament's history, but the first meeting in a decade, as the two teams met in the finals of the 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 tournaments, but never since.
As such, this game has been circled in the calendar by many for a while now, as both teams get set to renew what has typically been an eventful matchup over the years. Unlike those previous meetings – all won by Toronto – a lot has changed for this year's final. This is a one-game affair, instead of the two-legged match-ups of yesteryear, giving each team one single shot at claiming the Voyageurs Cup.
So as the Whitecaps and TFC get set to battle for a spot in the 2023 Concacaf Champions League, here's a look at what to watch out for when both teams take the field in front of 20,000+ at BC Place on Tuesday night.
The influence of Toronto's Italian contingent
It was a pair of debuts that had all of MLS talking.
Having both recently arrived in Toronto in the previous weeks, TFC's two newest Designated Players, full-fledged Italian internationals and European champions Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, took to the field this past weekend with their new team for the first time.
They put on quite a show, helping the Reds to a huge 4-0 win over Charlotte FC, in which Insigne had one backheel assist, while Bernardeschi added a goal and an assist, marking a performance that put the rest of the league on notice.
Plus, they did all of that in just 45 minutes of action each, as they were both taken out after just 45 minutes with their team already up 4-0, both to help ease their arrivals and to keep an eye on Tuesday night's CanChamp final, which Insigne admitted post-game.
For the Whitecaps, that's bad news. It means they'll likely be facing a much different version of the TFC side that Vancouver beat 1-0 at home earlier this year, with just five of the 11 starters from that game starting for TFC in their Charlotte win this past weekend.
Especially given the Whitecaps' recent dip in form, which has seen them go four straight games without a clean sheet and concede nine goals (including an uncharacteristic six goals in two games at BC Place), there is no worse time for them to face off against this new-look TFC attacking lineup.
So for TFC, getting goals early and often will be a priority, as they try to unsettle a Whitecaps defence dealing with its fair share of personnel and injury issues right now.
Be it through their pair of Italian DPs, or the secondary threat of Jesus Jimenez, Jonathan Osorio, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Michael Bradley and co., those early minutes could prove a key factor in this final, with these games typically being decided by whoever can breach their wall first.
Whitecaps hope all-in approach ends trophy drought
For all of the Whitecaps' struggles as of late, it's worth noting that they've been dealing with a historically bad run of injuries and other absences, at one point robbing them of double-digit first-teamers during this stretch, many of them starters.
Heading into this TFC game, however, things have gotten a lot better for them in that department, as just a handful of those injuries persist, giving them as close to their full-strength lineup as they've had in a while.
Plus, having rested a good chunk of their players this weekend in a loss to the Chicago Fire, with Ryan Gauld, Andres Cubas, Julian Gressel and Brian White all playing 45 minutes or fewer, a lot of those guys are fresh for this game, as well.
Because of that, this game could be a chance for the Whitecaps to play the likes of Gauld, Cubas, Gressel, White and Lucas Cavallini together for the first time, as they go all-in to try and win this final.
What would a 2022 #CanChamp title victory mean for @WhitecapsFC? #VWFC head coach Vanni Sartini joins @AndiPetrillo for the latest episode of OneSoccer Today 🍁🏆— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) July 25, 2022
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Having gone all-in throughout the previous rounds of the competition, playing as many of their big guns as they had available to use in three games against CPL teams while Toronto and Montreal rotated heavily, they're looking to maintain that approach for this game, and for good reason.
Knowing how much winning this trophy would mean to the club, having won it just once in their history (compared to eight for TFC), they've made it clear that this will be their biggest game of the season, and will approach it as such.
As a result, that could boost the Whitecaps to a positive result. It;s hard to imagine that right now given their recent form, of course, but it's worth noting that prior to that stretch, they were the hottest team in MLS between May 8th and July 2nd, so they've shown that they can turn up the heat if needed.
In front of a raucous crowd on Tuesday, they'll need to do just that, and are at least approaching it with that intent, which is a good start.
Canadians on both sides set to play key roles
Of course, with this being the Canadian Championship, keep an eye out for the various Canadians that will take the pitch on Tuesday, as each team is required to field at least three Canadian starters, meaning that there will be at least six Canadians playing (with both teams not being shy to field more).
And considering the crop of Canadians on display in this game, that could be fun.
On the hosts' side, Vancouver has got a few to keep an eye on, starting with CanMNT regular, Cavallini, who has been in scorching form in MLS with seven goals in 18 games, complemented by the upstart Ryan Raposo, who is tied for third on the team in goals in all competitions, as well as 2015 Canadian Championship MVP, Russell Teibert.
Along with the likes of Isaac Boehmer, Marcus Godinho, and Michael Baldisimo, those are some players who could influence the final, at both ends of the pitch.>
GOAL 🏔🏔@WhitecapsFC now up 2-0 over @ValourFootball in this #CanChamp match, as Ryan Raposo scores "one of those old Arsenal FIFA goals"— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) May 12, 2022
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Meanwhile, with TFC, they've got a whole host of names, led by 2018 Canadian Championship MVP and CanMNT regular, Jonathan Osorio, as well as fellow World Cup-bound CanMNT teammates (and midseason acquisitions), Mark-Anthony Kaye and Doneil Henry.
You sprinkle in potential contributions from Lukas MacNaughton, Ayo Akinola, Kosi Thompson and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, among others, and that's a solid list of Canadians to choose from for them, as well, both as starters and subs.
Considering that five of the 11 goals these two teams have scored in this tournament have come from four different Canadians, they've all already played a big role for their respective teams up to this point, and will look to be central figures as both teams now battle for the cup on Tuesday.