BURNABY, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps can gain control of their own destiny with a win over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.
Securing the victory will be the Whitecaps’ first priority, but goal differential and an upcoming rematch against Toronto FC will be in the back of the players’ minds.
A win over Montreal (10:30 p.m. EST), would give Vancouver six points in the six-game tournament, tying them with Toronto. That would set up a showdown when Toronto plays the Whitecaps at Swangard Stadium on Tuesday.
“With the way it’s looking it could come down to goal differential between us and Toronto,” goalkeeper Jay Nolly said Tuesday after the Whitecaps practised in rain and fog at Simon Fraser University. “If we are winning, we’ve got to try and not (just) protect the lead.
“If you are up 1-0, and you have an opportunity to get two or three more, you have to do it. With it coming down to a couple of teams having six points, or all three of us having six points, you have to bury your chances.”
Montreal is the defending Nutrilite champion. The tournament winner receives the Voyageurs Cup trophy and a berth in the preliminary round of the CONCACAF Championships League.
The Whitecaps are 1-1 in the tournament. They lost 1-0 to Toronto FC on May 6, then defeated Montreal 2-0 last week at Saputo Stadium. Vancouver scored goals in the first and 17th minute in that match.
Captain Martin Nash would like to see his team build an early lead again.
“We want to have a good start,” said Nash, a brother to NBA start Steve Nash. “I think it’s going to come down to our pressure defensively.
“We have to get on them and not give them any time and space. Hopefully, from that, we can pin them in their end and have a go. We are pretty strong defensively. If we can create a lot of chances and start scoring some goals, we’ll be a deadly team.”
The Impact, who lost 1-0 to Toronto May 13, need a victory to stay alive in the tournament. They play Toronto again June 18 in Montreal.
“We are confident about getting a positive result if we play well during the full 90 minutes,” said Montreal coach Marc Dos Santo.
“We know the Whitecaps well. We are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Offensively, we will have to make them pay for their mistakes. We must absolutely capitalize on our opportunities.”
Dos Santos took over the Montreal coaching duties earlier this month following the firing of John Limniatis.
Montreal notched a pair of 2-0 victories over Vancouver during last year’s tournament. Vancouver defender Jeff Parke said the Whitecaps can’t forget a win would put Montreal back into this year’s mix.
“Their backs are against the wall,” said Parke. “It’s their last game basically and that’s the way they are going to play it. They are a very dangerous team.”
Montreal plays an aggressive game, which can put pressure an opponent’s defence, said Parke.
“They possess the ball and they like to play,”‘ he said. “It’s a bit difficult to defend. I like that because it is a challenge. You can’t take plays off and get away with certain things.”
Vancouver coach Teitur Thordarson (TAY-tour TOR-dar-SUN) said the Whitecaps can control their future.
“We can decide our fate ourselves,” he said. “There is no doubt the possibilities we have here is great. We are going to give everything to manage to go through.”
The Whitecaps and Impact both play in the First Division of the United Soccer Leagues. Vancouver, the defending USL champion, have a 3-2-2 record in league play while Montreal is 1-3-2.
Wednesday’s game doesn’t count in the USL standings.
Toronto plays in Major League Soccer, which Vancouver will join in 2011.
Nash said the Whitecaps can’t take the Impact for granted.
“They have some very good players and they are very talented,” he said. “They just struggled to start the season. They are going to break out of it at some point and we can’t let it be against us.
“A team that is that goad, and that talented, can’t stay down for too long.’