Home Canadian Soccer Impact vs. Whitecaps: Looking at the “other” NCC semifinal

Impact vs. Whitecaps: Looking at the “other” NCC semifinal

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Of the two Nutrilite Canadian Championship semifinals that kick off on Wednesday, there’s no doubt that the match-up between the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact is the less-talked-about of the two.

With the interest on the FC Edmonton-Toronto FC match-up, Vancouver-Montreal is taking a backseat when it comes to hype.

No, the Whitecaps-Impact doesn’t feature two Dutch coaches playing 4-3-3 styles, it doesn’t have the appeal of newcomer-underdog vs. the defending champs. It doesn’t have our nation’s de facto Team Canada taking on the ever-transforming arm of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

But the Montreal-Vancouver matchup is more than a rekindling of an old, bitter rivalry. It’s fascinating test for the staggering Impact, which moves to MLS next season.

So, far, this NASL campaign, the Impact hasn’t won in three matches. The club has scored only once. No member of its current roster is signed to a deal that would take him into MLS in 2012.

The Impact have many players who have excelled in Div. 2 after short stints in MLS, from keeper Bill Gaudette to midfielder Luke Kreamalmayer. But it’s hard to find a player on the roster — at least three games in — who you would put money on being a member of the MLS Impact in 2012.

Vancouver’s final Div. 2 season saw it build towards MLS, signing and working in players — such as Swiss midfielder Davide Chiumiento and Canadian Terry Dunfield — to prepare them for the move to the big league. Vancouver hired former D.C. United coach Tom Soehn as its director of soccer operations.

And Vancouver graduated a number of players to MLS who were with the club for more than a full NASL season, from Wes Knight to Generation Adidas prospect Russell Teibert.

Montreal, meanwhile, through the first month of its last NASL season, doesn’t look like a team getting ready to stock an MLS franchise. Right now, this is a team of players who look like they would be playing for the NASL affiliate team that Impact owner Joey Saputo has been rumoured to want kicking off as early as next season. Granted, there is plenty of time for the Impact to add pieces as the season goes on. But, in looking at Wednesday’s matchup, you have to handicap the Impact based on the three regular-season games we have seen so far — and that is a club that is able to create chances, but can’t finish. Meanwhile, Vancouver has been bleeding goals at the MLS level, but has shown little trouble in scoring them.

And, with Designated Player Eric Hassli suspended for the Whitecaps’ next MLS match because of card accumulation, don’t look for him to be rested Wednesday.

But the Impact has been notorious for being a slow-starting franchise; when the team plays a large string of home games in the summer, the ship is usually righted. But, at the moment, it’s hard to imagine this series being as close Toronto FC-FC Edmonton; because, right now, FC Edmonton, winners of two of its three NASL games so far this season, looks to offer TFC a far stiffer challenge than the Impact would have in store for Vancouver.

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