Action from the Amway Canadian Championship match between visiting Toronto FC (left) and the Impact de Montreal on June 8, 2016. (Photo: Canada Soccer)
TORONTO -- Toronto FC ended an eight-season playoff drought last year, when it qualified for the Major League Soccer postseason for the first time in club history. Now, the Reds are hoping to end an absence from the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League that dates back to their last game in 2012.
The first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final opens Tuesday with Toronto hosting the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BMO Field.
For Toronto, the prospect of playing once again against CONCACAF’s best is appealing. In four all-time SCCL appearances, it reached as far as the semifinals in the 2011/12.
“For our group there’s ambition to play in international competition, which would get us into the (2017/18) Champions League,” Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney said after the team trained on Monday. “We want to establish ourselves as the best team in Canada.
“The Canadian Championships is one of those traditions you want to hold onto and win and really set your foot down. I think it’s an important event.”
Since winning the Canadian Championship four years in a row, Toronto has only been to the finals once, losing to the Montreal Impact in 2014.
Toronto enters a busy stretch with five games in 15 days coming up, including the two Canadian Championship legs. In the last round against Montreal, the squad was infused with young Canadian talent, which could very well be the case on Tuesday night.
Forward Jordan Hamilton, 20, scored a pair of goals in the first leg as Toronto got past Montreal in the semifinals. As a product of the club’s academy, he would love to help get Toronto FC back into the Champions League.
“It’s a Canadian Championship and we haven’t won in a while,” said Hamilton, who scored two goals for Canada in the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup. “Hopefully we can go out there at home and get a decent lead and close it out in Vancouver.”
It’s the third time Vancouver and Toronto will meet for a Canadian Championship. Toronto won the first two occasions in 2011 and 2012, which were Vancouver’s first seasons in MLS.
But Vancouver come in as defending champion and will be looking to qualify for the Champions League for the third consecutive season.