Wednesday night in Toronto, the Vancouver Whitecaps will continue their Canadian Championship title defense against York United at the York Lions Stadium.
While Vancouver comes into the match as massive favourites, they do have the unenviable history of not having secured a Canadian Championship win on the road, outside of penalties, in almost a decade.
York emerged from the preliminary round of this competition with a victory over another Vancouver side, newly minted Vancouver FC in Toronto back on April 20th by a score of 1-0. York will probably consider themselves fortunate looking back on that match, as a dubious early penalty call in the 6th minute gave the home side the lead, and from that point on, United did all they could to see out the result, surviving a late surge from the Eagles which included a penalty shout of their own which was not given.
In league play, York United are second from the bottom with 3 points through 4 matches with their only win coming against bottom place Ottawa by a score of 1-0 the week before last. When you add to this their tumultuous ownership situation, and the fact that they have only scored 2 goals in the league and 3 in total across 5 matches, it’s fair to say that York have had a pretty rough start to the year.
In terms of individual players, Mo Babouli is the one player on York United with the ability to break this match wide open if the Whitecaps slip defensively, or if he can produce a moment of individual brilliance. While Babouli has never been the most consistent player, his technical ability and fluidity on the ball is undeniable. Max Ferrari, who’s played primarily as a full-back this season, has long been a promising prospect for York who’s not yet lived up to his potential. In terms of Whitecaps content on York, Matthew Baldisimo, older brother of Micheal and former VWFC2 product, holds down a spot in central midfield.
For Vancouver, they have to be happy seeing their Canadian MLS rivals facing off against one another in the quarter-finals. Enjoying the spoils of being Canadian Champions, the Whitecaps’ path to the final (if successful) will see them face no opposition of their calibre. If Vancouver is able to advance, both possible matchups in the semi-finals will be tantalizing for BC soccer fans, as they will get to enjoy a famous Canadian Championship rematch against Pacific, or face the semi-pro fairytale TSS Rovers side who play in their former stadium at Swangard.
In terms of the lineup for Vancouver, one development since Axel Schuster’s appointment (not an intentional one I think) has been the gradual extinction of Canadian players from the Starting XI on most match weeks. Given this, the Canadians who will feature in this one are reasonably predictable. Thomas Hasal should start in goal, while Ryan Raposo, Russel Teibert and Ali Ahmed should round out the guaranteed Canadian contingent in this match for Vancouver. That being said, with a heavy schedule of fixtures upcoming, I do wonder if there could be any surprise showings from the MLS Next Pro side. Levonte Johnson or Antoine Coupland perhaps?
Overall, it’s hard to predict anything other than a decisive Whitecaps win in this match, but this would also not be the first time we have seen an upset in this competition, nor the first time the Whitecaps struggled against CPL competition. That said, if the Whitecaps are to fall down the proverbial trap door, I think it will be in the next round, so I’ll go for an eventful 3-1 Whitecaps win on Wednesday night.
(Image Credit: CPL)