One of the worst kept secrets in Canadian soccer was reported by Kristian Jack late last night – the Voyageurs Cup final will be held at BMO Field on March 20.
That date had been known by the teams as the likely game day for several weeks, but was withheld out of caution They now feel that the COVID-19 situation is predictable enough that they can safely plan for a Spring Solstice Eve affair at BMO.
There are some less than ideal things about this game.
First and foremost is that, as we don’t need to be reminded, it’s still taking place during a global pandemic that has made everything terrible. No fans will be there and likely little to no media. It will be a closed-door affair, which sucks, to say the least.
It will be televised on OneSoccer, so at least fans can watch. But, that the first Golden Horseshoe Derby (please don’t name this after a highway, I implore you) will take place without fans is truly sad. The Hamilton v Toronto rivalry in the CFL is very spicy, largely because the fans in Hamilton care so very much and the fans in Toronto can’t understand why because to them Hamilton is just a suburb of Toronto anyway (I’m illustrating why the fans of Hamilton care so very much right here).
What’s also very sad is that this game couldn’t have taken place last year when Forge was in peak form and had former CanMNT defender David Edgar in the line-up. The veteran, who retired in December, was a huge solidifying force for Forge and it’s difficult to see how they can pull off the upset without him.
And, then there’s the training issue. See, TFC has been in camp preparing for this game for two weeks now. Meanwhile, Forge players can only train on their own, outside of a training facility. That’s because of Ontario COVID-19 protocols currently in place.
TFC was given an exception to train by the Ontario government. Forge either wasn’t afforded the same privilege, or didn’t ask to be given the exception. Regardless, the result is that TFC will be at least two weeks ahead of Forge when it comes to fitness, although both teams will be playing their first game.
The instinct of many will be to lash out at TFC for this – people that don’t love TFC tend to think they are the evil behind everything wrong with Canadian soccer – but doing so would be the same as being mad at the Prime Minister for the weather (which, in certain parts of Alberta, would probably fly).
As I have said on SoccerToday multiple times, there is no such thing as fair in sports during a global pandemic; there is only what’s doable. This was what was doable. With both teams out of the country last fall – and an unwillingness by many to consider playing the game in the U.S. – the earliest the game could have taken place was two weeks after Forge finished its Concacaf League campaign. That was roughly Boxing Day, which is when Ontario went into a full lock-down.
With CCL action about to stat back up on April 6 and both teams needing to factor in potential quarantine time in the US (the CCL games will not be in Canada, unless there is a literal miracle on the pandemic front in next two weeks), March 20 became the last possible time to get this thing in.
TFC always was a huge favourite to win this game and the outside forces make that even more of the case. But, the ball is round and we at least have a game to look forward to now.