TFC has big expectations for 2009 championship

Toronto FC has a chip on its shoulder. Now in its third professional season in Major League Soccer, it is still steaming from finishing second in the inaugural Nutrilite Canadian Championship last year. The Toronto franchise – which plays a division above opponents Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Impact de Montréal from United Soccer Leagues First Division – were overwhelming favourites to win the inaugural championship.



By the time the championship wrapped up on 22 July 2008, however, TFC was out as the Impact won the trophy and qualified for the 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League. In fact, Toronto FC lost the championship on the final day after a 1:1 draw with the Impact at BMO Field.

Toronto FC has a chip on its shoulder. Now in its third professional season in Major League Soccer, it is still steaming from finishing second in the inaugural Nutrilite Canadian Championship last year. The Toronto franchise – which plays a division above opponents Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Impact de Montréal from United Soccer Leagues First Division – were overwhelming favourites to win the inaugural championship.



By the time the championship wrapped up on 22 July 2008, however, TFC was out as the Impact won the trophy and qualified for the 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League. In fact, Toronto FC lost the championship on the final day after a 1:1 draw with the Impact at BMO Field.



“You look at Vancouver, you look at Montréal – they are both good teams,” said Toronto FC’s new head coach Chris Cummins. “It is the same in any cup competition, you are only as good as you are on the day.”



After missing the MLS playoffs in each of its first two seasons, Toronto FC is finally on a bit of a role in its third MLS season. The team is unbeaten in its past three games, including a 1:1 draw against defending MLS champion Columbus Crew on Saturday. Through eight games, Toronto FC sits in second in the Eastern Conference with 12 points.



On Wednesday 6 May, Toronto FC hosts Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the opening match of the 2009 Nutrilite Canadian Championship. The three-team, six-match tournament runs 6 May through 18 June. Once again, Toronto FC is favourite to win the championship.



“This is a big tournament for us, there is no doubt about that,” said Cummins. “You just have to look at the likes of Jimmy Brennan or Dwayne De Rosario walking around and you can see what it means to them. You look at the fans, too; they deserve a little bit of success, so it is important that we go out there and get that for them.”



At stake is the Voyageurs Cup – the trophy awarded at the end of the competition – as well as a spot in the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League. Last year, the Impact won the Voyageurs Cup and then represented Canada all the way through to the quarter-final stage of CONCACAF Champions League. Toronto FC wants both in 2009.



“It hurt last year,” said Cummins. “You always go out there to win every game. That is something we said this year, ’remember how you felt last year so that you don’t get that same feeling this year’.”



Toronto FC will take its first steps on the road to redemption this Wednesday 6 May at BMO Field. The two sides kick off at 20.00 ET (17.00 PT) with a live broadcast available on Sportsnet.

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