Let's be clear – as the semifinals of this year's UEFA Champions League taught us, crowning a winner after the first leg of a two-legged tie is done is a fool's errand. It's a dumb thing to do. So, what am I going to do? Crown winners after the first legs of the second qualifying round of the 2019 Canadian Championship, ahead of Qualifying Round 3 (QR3) of the competition. (And giving locker-room material to the three teams who have some catching up to do if they want to survive). Assuming that Cavalry FC, York9 and HFX Wanderers hang on and survive the second legs, how would that set up the next round of the Canadian Championship?
HFX Wanderers vs. Ottawa Fury?

The Wanderers hold a one-goal edge over Valour FC after their 2-1 home win in the first leg. If they seal the deal in Winnipeg next week, they'll have to meet arguably the hottest team in the USL. The Fury has played 11 games and lost just twice. Ottawa has surrendered just five goals over its last eight games. So, if HFX is to survive a tie with the Fury, the Wanderers will need to nick maybe a goal and find a way to blanket red-hot striker Mour Samb, who already has six goals. If it becomes a high-scoring series, the Wanderers' chances lessen. If the Wanderers are to close the deal in Winnipeg and then succeed against the Fury, they will need to replicate the quick-strike transition game that led to Mohamed Kourouma's winner on Tuesday. The Wanderers don't look to have the patient-buildup game in their DNA; they need to turn defensive transition into instant offence. And if Ottawa does have an Achilles heel, it's on the Fury's right side (the attacking left). Almost all of the goals scored against them over the last couple of months have come on attacks down that wing.
York9 vs. Montreal Impact?

York9 continues to be one of the most enigmatic, if not the most enigmatic teams in the league. Comfortably up 3-0 at home over FC Edmonton thanks to three goals off corner kicks, the Nine Stripes were cruising to a resounding 1st-leg result. Then, the last half-hour of the game saw Edmonton dominate, get a goal back courtesy of Oumar Diouck, and, just before the whistle was blown, seemingly score another goal as the ball went off James Marcelin's chest and into the York9 net — but the potential second Eddies' road effort was ruled out for a push on the 'keeper. Without fail, York9 fades out during portions of the game. We saw that again in the first leg, and it can be argued that the 3-1 lead heading to Edmonton isn't a lock. If York9 plays MLS opposition, Y9 coach Jimmy Brennan needs 180 minutes of concentration from his players. He also needs his team to take advantage of the small home pitch in the home leg. How? By not giving the Impact's midfield any time on the ball and simply create havoc. The more restarts, the better. Manny Aparicio will have to continue to be a pesky agitator in the midfield. There's no way they are going to get three corner-kick goals again — but they'll need to get something out of set pieces, too.
Cavalry FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps?

Yes, Cavalry FC has the advantage over Forge FC. The score might be 1-1, but the Cavs have a road goal and the second leg will be on the grassy Spruce Meadows pitch. Of course, there are so many potential storylines from a Cavalry-Whitecaps match, as there are so many links between the MLS club and the Cavs. Marco Carducci, Elijah Adekugbe, Dominick Zator and Carlos Patino all have ties to the 'Caps or their Residency program. Really, all Cavalry would need to avoid is the temptation to change its style of play because of a need to show respect to a "bigger" opponent. The Cavs' high-pressure system has paid dividends all season long, so there's no reason to change the philosophy. Force the Whitecaps to make three or four quick passes to beat the press, or go over the top and play direct.
The Motivator

So, do Bobby Smyrniotis, Jeff Paulus and Rob Gale, the coaches of Forge, the Eddies and Valour respectively, bookmark this article? Do they forward this link to their players? Maybe, just maybe. Because, remember when we though that, surely, we'd be seeing Ajax and Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League final? That was just a few weeks ago. How quickly things change.

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