Saturday, May 30, 2009

Live blog: a key night for Canadian soccer

Tonight's going to be very important for both Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps. First, at 8:30, Toronto take on the Houston Dynamo at Robertson Park. Both teams will be eager to pick up full points, as they both sit in third place in their respective conferences. TFC have a 4-3-4 record and 16 points, five behind the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Fire, while Houston are 4-2-3 and have 15 points, nine behind Western Conference leaders Chivas USA.

The big story in this one is the return of former Dynamo players Dwayne De Rosario and Adrian Serioux. Both were key parts of Houston's 2006 MLS Cup title campaign. Serioux was selected by Toronto FC in the MLS expansion draft, but dealt to FC Dallas for Ronnie O'Brien, while De Rosario stayed in Houston until this season. They were expensive acquisitions for TFC, with Serioux traded for a first-round pick and allocation money and De Rosario picked up for Julius James and allocation money, but both have come through so far and been two of Toronto FC's top performers to date.

At 10 p.m. Eastern, the Vancouver Whitecaps take on the Portland Timbers down in Oregon. There's a lot on the line here as well, as both clubs are jockeying for position in the USL table. Portland are 3-1-3 through seven games for 12 points, good enough for fourth place at the moment, while the Whitecaps are in fifth with a 3-2-2 record for 11 points. Both have games in hand on the sides above them, so a win for either could put them in position to challenge for the league lead. The Cascadia Cup, traditionally given to the winner of the season series between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, is also at stake tonight [Simon Fudge,]; with Seattle moving up to MLS this season, the cup will be awarded to whoever takes the best-of-three regular-season series between
Portland and Vancouver. The Whitecaps are in good position to defend the trophy, as they claimed the first match 1-0 at home. With a win tonight, they'll be taking the Cascadia Cup back north to their trophy case.

However, the Whitecaps may be somewhat distracted by the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. After knocking off Montreal on Wednesday, they'll face Toronto FC at home on Tuesday in their final match of the competition. A victory there would put them in excellent shape to go through, as they already have an edge in goal differential and the Montreal Impact will be eager to avenge themselves on rivals Toronto FC in the final match of the competition. Thus, we may see head coach Teitur Thordarson rest some players tonight in anticipation of Tuesday's match [Ian Walker, The Vancouver Sun].

Portland's on-field play may also be overshadowed by distractions. They're having difficulties getting their soccer-specific stadium plan passed, and MLS commissioner Don Garber recently wrote a letter to city commissioner Dan Saltzman to inform him that a shared stadium for baseball and soccer will not pass muster [Jason Davis, Match Fit USA]. Moreover, Montreal and Joey Saputo are lurking around the edges of the league, just waiting for Portland to slip up [Ben Knight, Onward Soccer]. You wouldn't blame their fans and players if they had more on their mind than just tonight's match as well.

Both games should be great, and they'll both be covered in tonight's live blog. Join in after the jump!

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