Ottawa Fury FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC won their respective opening legs as the semi-finals of the 2017 Canadian Championship kicked off on Tuesday night. Ottawa Fury FC were impressive in a historic, come-from-behind 2:1 victory over visiting Toronto FC in the first of two matches on the night. Vancouver then struck twice in the first half of a 2:1 win over visiting Impact Montréal FC in the second match of the doubleheader.
Both return legs will be played in the coming week, with Impact Montréal FC hosting Vancouver at Stade Saputo on 30 May and then Toronto FC hosting Ottawa Fury FC at BMO Field on 31 May. Both matches will be broadcast live from coast to coast across Canada on TSN1, TSN3, TSN4, and TSN5 while the Montréal-Vancouver match will also be broadcast on RDS.
Ottawa Fury FC 2:1 Toronto FC
Ottawa Fury FC hold an impressive 2-1 lead in their Canadian Championship semi-final series after a historic home win over five-time champions Toronto FC. Ryan Williams and Sito were Ottawa’s second-half goalscorers to the delight of the home crowd at TD Place.
Ottawa Fury FC have now won three successive home matches in the Canadian Championship, with a win last year against Vancouver Whitecaps FC and two wins this year against FC Edmonton and Toronto FC. Ottawa Fury FC will need to maintain or improve on their 2-1 series lead next week when they face Toronto FC in the return leg at BMO Field in Toronto.
Toronto FC scored first in their away leg, with last year’s MVP Benoît Cheyrou playing the give and go between passes from Raheem Edwards and Jordan Hamilton. From the final pass, Cheyrou was in alone to give Toronto FC the 1-0 lead in the 35th minute.
In the second half, Williams equalised on the penalty in the 57th minute. Ahead of that moment, an Ottawa corner kick was headed off the post by Ramon Del Campo. Ottawa kept the ball in play and had a couple of chances on goal until Sito’s kick was handled by a Toronto player.
In the 72nd minute, a Tucker Hume interception created the opportunity for Ottawa’s second goal. Sito was quick to the ball and fired it past the Toronto FC goalkeeper.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2:1 Impact Montréal FC
Vancouver Whitecaps FC have taken a 2-1 series lead with a home win in the 2017 Canadian Championship semi-finals opening leg. The Whitecaps scored twice in the first half before Impact Montréal FC cut the series lead in the second half.
Vancouver are now undefeated across 11 consecutive home matches in the Canadian Championship since 2011 (seven wins and four losses). Both sides now travel east to play at Stade Saputo in the return leg on Tuesday 30 May.
Vancouver opened in the 13th minute from a Brek Shea cross from the right side. Nicolas Mezquida smartly stepped over the low cross, letting the ball through to Alphonso Davies who fired it into the back of the net. At just 16 years old, Davies became the youngest goalscorer in the history of the Canadian Championship.
In the 33rd minute, Vancouver doubled their lead after some nice work by Davies heading to the edge of the box. Davies was stopped by Montréal midfielder Hernan Bernardello, but the loose ball was quickly picked up and fired on goal by Mezquida for the 2-0 lead.
In the 62nd minute, Montréal cut the lead in half on the Choinière goal. Daniel Lovitz played the ball forward and Anthony Jackson-Hamel flicked it forward with a header; Choinière then smashed it into the back of the net.
In the 68th minute, Montréal nearly equalised on a Chris Duvall shot that hit the post. Then in the 73rd minute, a Bernier penalty attempt was saved by the Whitecaps goalkeeper Spencer Richey. Bernier was close again in the final minute, but his shot at the back post was saved by Richey on the line.
As the only all-Canada competition that leads to the international stage, including the CONCACAF Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup, the Canadian Championship is viewed as a prestigious event unparalleled in Canada.
New Canadian Content rules introduced by Canada Soccer in 2017 include the requirement that a minimum of three Canadians are in the starting lineup for all Canadian Championship matches which will result in more Canadian players taking the pitch than in any previous editions of the competition’s 10-year history.
Between the two matches on Tuesday night, there were 29 Canadians dressed across the four teams. Including the first round, the five Canadian teams have dressed 37 players after four matches.
The Battle of the North
“We’re calling this competition The Battle of the North because it really is the pinnacle of Canadian club soccer, and the only competition that gives Canadian professional clubs an opportunity to advance to the international stage,” said Peter Montopoli, General Secretary for Canada Soccer. “Canadian clubs have come close to securing a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup in the past, including the Montréal Impact in 2015. We are confident we’ll see some world-class soccer in each of these upcoming Canadian Championship matches.”
The Path to the FIFA Club World Cup
The path to the FIFA Club World Cup started with the Qualifying Round, with Ottawa Fury FC now joining Canada’s three MLS teams for home and away Semi-final series. The home and away Final round will culminate with the final match on 27 June where the winner will be crowned 2017 Canadian Champion and raise the Voyageurs Cup. A special one-match Battle of the North playoff between the 2016 Canadian Championships winners Toronto FC and the 2017 winners will be played on 9 August in Toronto to determine who will advance, unless Toronto FC repeats as Canadian winners.
The winners of the Battle of the North will have earned its spot to compete in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, the region’s most prestigious club tournament, that qualifies its champion directly to the FIFA Club World Cup.
One of the most distinguished club level trophies in soccer, the FIFA Club World Cup pits the winners of CONCACAF Champions League against the winners of the five other continental championships: Asia’s AFC Champions League, Africa’s CAF Champions League, South America’s Copa Libertadores, Oceania’s OFC Champions League, and Europe’s UEFA Champions League. The competition also features the host nation’s national champions.