Joe Cannon does not like to talk about the Vancouver Whitecaps’ last meeting with Toronto FC.
“Don’t bring that up,” the Vancouver goalkeeper told reporters after a practice Monday. “That was a disappointing night. That was really heart-wrenching, actually.”
The Whitecaps return Wednesday to BMO Field, where they lost 1-0 in the decisive second leg of the Amway Canadian championship final in May to a TFC side that, to say the least, has struggled this season.
“If you want to give us some motivation for this next game, it’s definitely the disappointment that we felt, not only for ourselves but for our fans and for our franchise,” said Cannon. “Hopefully, we come out with something good.”
This time, the Whitecaps visit Toronto for a Major League Soccer regular-season game. For all of the gains that the Caps have made in their second MLS campaign, they have struggled at inopportune times against the Reds.
The 1-0 loss in the second leg of the Canadians came after the Whitecaps rallied for a last-minute 1-1 tie in the first leg at home a week earlier.
On the other hand, Toronto has fared poorly against most other clubs. The Reds underwent a coaching change as Paul Mariner replaced the fired Aaron Winter last month.
Toronto lost its last game 3-0 in Philadelphia on Saturday and now sports a 2-11-4 record in league play.
The Whitecaps, 8-6-2 in league play after finishing last overall in 2011, have posted a win and a draw in their past two games — both of which were on the road. Vancouver is an impressive 3-3-3 away from B.C. Place Stadium.
Caps defender Alain Rochat said Vancouver players are mad about their two previous efforts against Toronto, and must show less respect for the Reds and play accordingly.
“We are ahead in the league, and it’s not by chance,” said Rochat.
The Whitecaps will play their four of five straight road games. Rochat said there is little danger that the Caps will take the Reds lightly.
“It could be (dangerous), but in our case, I don’t think so, because we were unable to beat them for a couple of games — and that has to change,” said Rochat. “So we have to take them seriously and act like a real team.”
Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie disputes the notion that his club has struggled this season against Toronto. The Caps beat TFC in a pre-season tournament in Orlando, Fla., before splitting the two Canadian championship games.
He also downplays the rivalry between the two Canadian clubs.
“This hasn’t got anything to do with the Canadian championship, but it’s another important game for us,” said Rennie. “We’re in a good run of form at the moment on the road, and we just want to keep that going. It’s a Canadian rival and, obviously, you want to do well against other teams from Canada as well as you want to do against anybody else.”
Captain Jay DeMerit, who was selected this week to start for the Western Conference club in the MLS all-star game later this month, said it’s difficult to place more importance in one game than another in the long season. But it’s also important for the Whitecaps to use the rivalry with Toronto as fuel for their fire.
“You always try to heat up a rivalry,” said DeMerit. “We’ve definitely created one over the past couple seasons against Toronto, and that’s a good thing. Any time we can get up for the games and perform well in a rivalry setting, the better it is for everyone, including the fans. We just have to make sure we’re on the right side of the result this time.”
Goalkeeper Cannon said the Whitecaps have nothing to prove to themselves in wake of the past two games against the Reds. But he still tried to stoke the rivalry by describing the Caps as “Canada’s team.”
“We’ve gotta prove it on the field now,” said Cannon.
Notes: Rochat has played midfield the past two games and could play that position against Toronto. But Rennie has no particular long-term plans for his use there. Rochat was moved to midfield after Jun Marques Davidson was suspended two games ago. Davidson was eligible to return in Saturday’s 0-0 draw Saturday against Chivas USA, but he remained on the bench throughout. ... Cannon is two clean sheets away from matching his 10th career shutout.