Last night at BMO Field, Toronto FC claimed their second consecutive and sixth overall Voyageurs Cup against their bitter rivals from Montreal. The atmosphere was electric from the jump, just as you’d imagine it would be in what is arguably among the fiercest rivalries in North American sports. It was a 95th minute goal from Sebastian Giovinco that sealed the victory for the Reds after what could only be considered sub-par refereeing decisions affected both sides. A missed penalty call followed by a late red card will only fuel the fire moving forward as the Canadian Championship continues its trend of having a flare for the dramatic.
Of their six championship victories, Toronto has come back and won five of them have from what most would consider precarious positions. Let’s take a look back through the history of this tournament and break down TFC’s habit of winning the Voyageurs Cup in breathtaking fashion.
2009, “The Miracle in Montreal” - Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC
On June 18, 2009, a true rivalry was born. It may come as a shock to you that, being the only MLS team in what was then a three team tournament, TFC needed to rally back to win the tournament on goal differential. And by rally I mean make up a -4 goal differential in the final match, on the road I might add, to claim the trophy. As the Reds took on USL side Montreal Impact, the Vancouver Whitecaps of the USL were in attendance ready to celebrate their first ever piece of silverware. Then Toronto FC did the unthinkable.
Montreal opened the scoring from the penalty spot, attempting to break the Reds who now needed to score at least five goals. But Toronto boy Dwayne De Rosario put the team on his back. A hattrick from DeRo cut the deficit to just two. Amado Guevara’s tally in the 69th minute cut it down to just a single goal. It was Chad Barrett’s 82nd minute goal that sent the travelling TFC supporters into a frenzy and guaranteed Toronto’s spot in the CONCACAF Champions League playoff round against Real Esteli. Guevara’s 2nd goal in the 90th minute iced it and gave TFC its largest ever victory, a 6-1 win in miraculous style.
2011 - Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC
The 2011 season was one of greater change than usual for Toronto FC. New bench boss Aron Winter took over the club in early January. As was the tradition in TFC’s early days, Winter essentially gutted the team in order to form it in his own image in what would become known by some as the “Dutch Experiment.” Having traded away their captain and hometown hero Dwayne De Rosario, the club still managed to make it to the final against a clearly superior Vancouver side, now of MLS. What transpired in the final was incredibly bizarre and proves that Mother Nature is most certainly not a Whitecaps fan.
Eric Hassli opened the scoring in the first leg at Vancouver’s temporary home, Empire Field, but Vancouver allowed a Toronto away goal from Ryan Johnson just ten minutes later. Tied up 1-1, the teams headed to Toronto for the second leg. Despite severe storm warnings in the forecast,, the match was played as scheduled amidst a torrential downpour. Eric Hassli once again opened the scoring in the 17th minute, but Mother Nature came to TFC’s rescue as lightning began to strike near by, prompting officials to abandon the game in the 60th minute. As per tournament rules, since the match was abandoned on or before the 60 minute, a full 90 minute replay had to be played. The next available date wasn’t until nearly a month and a half later, but the rematch was scheduled for July 2nd, a post-Canada Day affair at BMO Field. The Whitecaps again opened the scoring for a third straight time thanks to Camilo, but goals from Joao Plata and Mikael Yourassowsky proved to be enough to give the Reds their third consecutive Canadian Championship.
2012 - Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC
What Toronto FC fans will remember most about the 2012 season was how the team managed to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals while simultaneously starting the MLS season with an 0-9 record. But that didn’t stop TFC from having another go at the Canadian Championship. Taking on the Whitecaps once more and with things all squared at 1-1 after the first leg in Vancouver, Toronto faced yet another showdown at BMO Field. Deadlocked at nil-nil and with extra time on the horizon, Reggie Lambe scored in the 83rd minute to give Toronto their fourth consecutive Canadian Championship victory, the last of their streak. “The worst team in the world,” as Danny Koevermans would later call them, was still the best team in Canada.
2016 - Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC
After the Vancouver won their first ever Canadian Championship in 2015, the Whitecaps were looking to repeat against a familiar foe in Toronto. The Reds took the first leg at home 1-0 thanks to a goal by Sebastian Giovinco, and the second leg shifted to BC Place, where the Whitecaps were determined to repeat. Nicolas Mezquida opened the scoring for Vancouver, drawing them level on aggregate, and Tim Parker push them ahead in the 68th minute. All Toronto would need is one away goal to claim victory. And what a memorable goal it was.
With fourth official holding up the sign for four minutes of added time, the Reds left it all out on the turf. As the ball was played into the Whitecaps area, defender Kendall Waston and goalkeeper David Ousted both decided to make an attempt to clear it, Waston with a header and Ousted with a punch. Enter, Will Johnson. As Ousted tried to recover and get back into position, the Canadian international Johnson charged in and buried the loose ball, literally breaking his leg in the process and winning it for the Reds with the last kick of the game.
2017 - Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC
Yet another chapter was written in this great rivalry on a cool Tuesday night in Toronto. All squared at one a piece after the first leg, the Impact took the lead on a lovely curling finish from the young Ballou Tabla. But with Toronto knocking on the door constantly, it was only a matter of time before the Reds found the back of the net. Sebastian Giovinco equalized for Toronto in the 53rd minute, setting up what was sure to be an instant classic. With missed call after missed call, referee David Gantar (who is no stranger to Toronto FC fans) forced the game to take a chippy turn. A shout for a penalty in favour of Jozy Altidore, a straight red card shown to Patrice Bernier in the late stages and the ensuing scuffle created a true cup final atmosphere similar to the MLS Cup semifinal played between these two sides. With time ticking away, Raheem Edwards’ low cross found Giovinco once again who made no mistake and created pandemonium in the stands. TFC won yet again in the most dramatic of ways to claim their rightful spot in the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League and their sixth Voyageurs Cup.
The tournament has grown leaps and bounds from its humble beginnings as a trophy awarded by the fans, bought and paid for with the hard earned money of Canadian national team supporters. While the Canadian Championship is still small by comparison with a five team format and may not seem like much to get excited about, you can be sure that it’s never devoid of drama, making it a must-watch sporting event for outsiders and a staple for Canadian soccer fans.