The Vancouver Whitecaps and Cavalry FC have had very different seasons to date. It is the first season for Marc Dos Santos as head coach of the Whitecaps, who have brought in a whole new set of players in the off-season and have been trying to implement a very different style and identity to the most recent rendition of the Whitecaps. Does that sound like a new beginning? Well take a look at Calgary’s Cavalry FC. It is their first season, ever. The club has only existed for just over a year and played its first ever game in May. It is a short, but very successful history. Cavalry have only lost two matches, and have never, ever, drawn a game.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
This is the Vancouver Whitecaps’ first 2019 Canadian Championship fixture.
This match could be coming at a perfect time for the Whitecaps. Their last match was a pummeling by LAFC, where Maxime Crépaeu saw six unanswered goals go by him. Overall, the MLS season has not been going so well, so a chance to start fresh with the Canadian Championship could be exactly what is needed.
In the past, the Whitecaps saw the Canadian Championship as an opportunity to rotate players, but Marc Dos Santos’ approach should be a little different. “I think when you rotate a lot, it’s disrespectful for the competition” he said ahead of the game. Dos Santos said at the start of the season that making it to the Final of the tournament was one of the club’s main objectives, but he knows that it won’t be easy. “This will always be important and will always be a priority, doesn’t mean we are gonna win the cup, that’s another story, but are we going to go all-in to try and do it? Yes”.
There is a requirement for all teams to have at least three Canadians in the starting 11, which was a challenge in the past. Not for the current team, however. With the likes of Canadian National Team members Doneil Henry, Derek Cornelius, Russel Teibert and Maxime Crépeau at his disposal, meeting the quota should be no problem.
Pacific FC 0 – 2 Cavalry FC
Cavalry FC 2 – 1 Pacific FC (4-1 aggregate)
Forge FC 1 – 1 Cavalry FC
Cavalry FC 2 – 1 Forge FC (3-2 aggregate)
For Cavalry, this is the biggest game of their season to date. This side is sure not to be short of motivation. After almost brushing off all of their league competition, they will be more than excited to get at it against one of the country’s biggest clubs with a relatively long history.
Maxime Crépeau knows not to overlook this Calgary team. “Just because it’s a new league does not mean we have to take it for granted, they’re not underdogs and we’re not the best team,”
A Fusion of Leagues
This round marks the first time teams from the Canadian Premier League play teams from higher divisions. The CPL is Canada’s first division of soccer, whereas the MLS is considered the first division of the United States. It is clear at the moment that the MLS is treated as a higher division, even by the Canadian Soccer Association, just from looking at the way the tournament is set up. But, from a Canadian’s point of view, it is a gap that will hopefully shrink over time as soccer continues to grow in the great white north. With Cavalry taking on the Whitecaps and York9 playing Montreal today, it is time to see just where the leagues stand right now.
Another interesting story is the one concerning Ottawa Fury FC. Ottawa was widely expected to become the CPL’s eight team, but opted instead to stay in the USL, the second division in the United States’ soccer hierarchy. The move didn’t sit well for many, notably CONCACAF, which has the power to deny teams playing in a league based outside their country. Lead by Burnaby’s Victor Montagliani, CONCACAF tried to force Ottawa into the CPL, but after legal procedures, the Fury were granted the right to participate in the USL for another year.
The matchup today Ottawa Fury FC and HFX Wanderers FC will tell us a bit about that decision. On paper, it is probably the most even tie in this round, as the CPL is closer to the USL than MLS in terms of level of play. That also means that supporters of the Canadian Premier League will be watching this one with interest. If Canada’s top league needs some time to get to that of our southern neighbours, maybe right now it can show that it is at least at the level of USA’s second division.
Coming back to the Whitecaps vs Cavalry clash, it could be the best chance for a CPL team to upset one of the MLS’s participants. Vancouver currently sits in second last place in the MLS Western Conference standings and is placed last among the league’s Canadian teams. Calgary, meanwhile, was the pride of the CPL over the course of the spring season, finishing top of the table quite comfortably with 24 points from 10 games. Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s men will see this tie as an opportunity to get to the next level, now that they’ve established themselves as top dogs of the CPL.
“They’re motivated, for them, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain”Marc Dos Santos
Path to the CCL
For both these teams, the Canadian Championship is the only path to the CONCACAF Champions League. The winner of the Canadian Championship is granted a spot in the round of 16 stage of the continental tournament. The Whitecaps most recently participated in the Champions League in 2017, when they lost to Mexico’s Tigres in the semifinals. The following year, Toronto FC came closer than any Canadian team has ever come to winning the championship, losing in the final to Chivas Guadalajara in a shootout. The CONCACAF Champions League also serves as qualification for the FIFA Club World Cup. Looking at it that way, today is Vancouver’s first step towards world supremacy!
How to watch
Like all other Canadian Championship matches up to this point, the only viewing option will be to stream the match on Onesoccer.ca. A streaming service for which you need to pay, but does have a free trial for the first month.
Qualifying Round 3, Leg 1
HFX Wanderers FC vs Ottawa Fury FC, Wanderers Ground, 15:00 PT
York9 FC vs Montreal Impact FC, York University, 16:30 PT
Cavalry FC vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Spruce Meadows, 18:30 PT