By Tyler Adamsky
Some people will look at the trophy’s name and say that the tournament’s outcome was destiny. Others will look at the team and just assume that the favoured French-Canadians simply did what was expected of them. Unfortunately, both outlooks lack an appreciation for the drama that has unfolded over the last months.
Toronto kicked off the 2002 A-League season staring adversity dead in the face. The Lynx began play with their first eight league fixtures on the road. They would return home with an overtly modest 1-6-1 record. Over the course of two short months the Lynx became a team primed for a race to stay out of their divisional basement. The situation looked dire until a turning point arose. On June 15’Th in Toronto two things happened - it rained, and the Calgary Storm came to town to inaugurate Toronto’s Voyageurs Cup campaign. The eastern side played with a vigour that had been lacking since the regular season opened nearly two months prior. In convincing fashion Toronto dealt Calgary a hard 4-2 away loss. Feeling recharged, Toronto would go undefeated through its next four Voyageurs Cup matches. The only blemish on that record was a 1-1 away draw with Vancouver. Five games into the six that the Voyageurs Cup is comprised of, Toronto found itself only two points short of the 15 maximum.
Vancouver was a disappointment in this first year of the Voyageurs Cup. Their 2-1-3 record pays homage to this statement, especially considering the team’s high expectations after last season’s success. While some may look at the Whitecaps’ record and argue that near .500 isn’t a total loss, they are actually quite wrong. This truth is evident when sleuthing and finding that their only wins came against lowly Calgary. The fact of the matter is every team was every team in the tournament was able to handle the Storm. Most teams did it in more convincing style than Vancouver, to boot. Cue Toronto’s 6-0 thrashing of Calgary at Foothills Park. It is unfortunate that Vancouver, one of Canada’s most storied organizations, was unable to mount a serious run at the Cup. An excuse may be forthcoming in the team’s ownership issues, but it doesn’t erase the matter of collecting 1 of a possible 12 points in fixtures against Toronto and Montreal. Reality is that Vancouver is much in the same as Calgary: there’s always next year.
Montreal, like Toronto, opened their Voyageurs Cup season at a steady pace. They matched Toronto’s performances game for game until a week into August. On the 7’Th of that month Toronto met the Impact in Montreal and snuck away with a crucial away victory. In the last seconds of extra time Toronto’s Julio Penalilo scored to give the Lynx an important 3 points. Montreal would have 11 days to contemplate if they still wanted to make a run at a Voyageurs Cup title. It is true that they still had three games to play, but one of those matches was against a yet-undefeated Toronto, in the cauldron of Centennial Stadium. All the Lynx required was a single point in that August 18’Th fixture to lay claim to the trophy. Unfortunately for the Torontonians, the Impact decided to hold their ground. Due to injuries and suspensions the Toronto defence was made up of converted midfielders. This showed, as Montreal scored twice in the first 10 minutes before the Lynx back line found their feet. It was all they would need. Despite a Toronto reply, the game ended 2-1.
There were two games left in the whole tournament and they both had Montreal away to western opposition. The Impact needed maximum points from their games against Calgary and Vancouver to reign supreme. The Storm, who hadn’t won a Voyageur’s Cup match to date would not renege on their form, falling by a score line of 3-1. One point back of the Lynx and with one game in hand, Montreal then headed to Vancouver. Putting in a dominant performance Montreal showed why they indeed deserved to win the first ever Voyageurs Cup tournament. The team fought back, from the brink of second place over their last three games.
It is fitting, having a French-Canadian team win a Cup with a name that embodies so much Francophone history. Some might call it destiny. Others will call it a fate that the entire Impact organization deserves - a fitting climax to hard work and dedication. For the 2002 season, Montreal is clearly the cream of Canada’s professional crop.