For Toronto FC captain Steven Caldwell, TFC’s Canadian Championship semifinal matchup against the Vancouver Whitecaps doesn’t only represent his first opportunity to represent the Reds in a Cup tournament, it also represents an opportunity to face off against some close friends from across the pond.
That said, the 33 year old central defender’s also expects the two leg series to be anything but friendly.
“The Whitecaps head coach, Carl Robinson, is one of my best friends in football,” Caldwell told RedNation. “I played with him at Sunderland and I speak to him every few days. Andy O’Brien was at Newcastle as well, so they are a team in which I know a lot of the guys pretty well, which is kind of unusual for me in this league.”
“I expect a fight from Vancouver and a good organized side,” Caldwell added. “Carl was an excellent player who read the game well and who was very measured in how he approached football. I’m pretty sure that his team will be the same and they will pass the ball like a confident side. They have certainly got some great young players and experienced players as well. Hopefully we can get one over on them.”
While the Stirling, Scotland native is most familiar with the elder statesmen with the Whitecaps, the TFC defender did admit that he and his teammates will have to be ready for the young speed demons on Vancouver’s roster.
Asked how he might need to adjust his game to contend with the blistering pace of Whitecaps attackers such as Darren Mattocks, Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado, Caldwell was plain in explaining that he does not expect to alter his approach drastically for Vancouver’s roster.
“It is probably every game in my career that I have to approach it against forwards that are quicker than I am,” Caldwell explained. “Most guys are quicker than me, so it is about being experienced and reading the game and understanding when they will be running in behind and cutting the space down. Pressure on the ball is also important. If we can get the heads down on the guys who are playing the ball, then they won’t be able to pick out passes and get it forward to them. We’ll be fine and we’ll be ready for that challenge.”
Even with TFC entering the tournament fresh off a three game losing streak in league competition, the veteran of English football does not feel that his team will be starting Wednesday’s match in especially poor form.
“We don’t feel we deserve to have lost three games in a row, but that’s sometimes the way football goes,” Caldwell said. “We played well against Colorado and unfortunately they scored on the one chance that they had. Against Dallas we felt like we could have got the draw. And against New England Gilberto had a great header and the keeper made a great save and it hit the post. It just one of those little spells.”
Ultimately, more than anything else, Caldwell sees Wednesday’s fixture as one in which Toronto absolutely have to translate their positive play into tangible results while playing on their home pitch at BMO Field.
“We have to be mentally tough and ready to work hard and to be better,” Caldwell added. “We need to be ready to give our fans something to shout about. They deserve it. We are bitterly disappointed for ourselves and for them about how we have done in these last few games. We have to get back on track.”