The Canadian derby sees Toronto FC top Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BMO Filed ahead of the Canadian Championship final.
On the day when Toronto FC announced the signing of not one but two new Designated Players and ahead of Saturday's Canadian Championship second leg between the two clubs, the match seemed to take second stage, especially with both sides resting key players to start.
Before the game, Toronto presented its two newest signings, German international midfielder Torsten Frings and Dutch striker Danny Koevermans, to the home crowd. Neither is eligible to play until after July 15.
"We started the afternoon with the big announcement about those two players and then also [added] three points as well," Toronto head coach Aron Winter said. "The points are important. The way we played was not good, but its important at this moment to get the points."
With an eye on Saturday's game, Vancouver fielded a starting line up which saw regular starters, Eric Hassli, Jonathan Leathers, Terry Dunfield and Nizar Khalfan start on the bench and captain Jay DeMerit and midfielder Davide Chiumiento rested.
Toronto went with a more set side but still had top-scorers Maicon Santos and Alan Gordon out of the lineup, with Julian de Guzman on the bench.
Predictably, the first half was uninspiring with both sides struggling to create offensive opportunities. The closest either came was a poorly-hit strike from unmarked Reds midfielder Mikael Yourasowsky in the 15th minute with the goal open.
The second half saw the introduction of Hassli, who instantly made his presence felt around the Toronto box, but no true scoring chances materialized.
The breakthrough in the match came in the 53rd minute when Soolsma found his way into the Whitecaps area and was fouled by defender Greg Janicki. Soolsma stepped up to take the penalty himself and converted, but it was called back by referee Mark Geiger as Toronto winger Joao Plata jumped the play ahead of the kick. However Soolsma had no trouble converting on the re-take, going to Jay Nolly's right.
"I felt like I got a pretty good read on the second one but he just stepped in and it skipped pretty low on the grass," Nolly said. "I thought I was going to get there in time but it just beat me to the corner. That would have been big for the team, that’s what I am there to do, to make saves and keep us in the game."
Vancouver couldn't mount much of an attack after that, with Plata getting much of the credit for carrying the play for Toronto. The Caps' only real chance came off the boot of Omar Salgado in the 60th minute, but his turn-and-hit from just outside the box rolled wide of the right post.
Joao Plata | The shortest player on the pitch loomed large
In the last minute of play, Demitrius Omphroy, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, made his professional soccer debut, replacing Plata.
"Tonight, I thought our possession was much better, but not in the final third of the pitch," said Whitecaps FC head coach Tom Soehn. "I thought we lacked creativity and struggled to get the ball into the mix, where good things can happen. While you feel it's improving in some areas, where we're not improving is getting results.
"This was an opportunity lost and we can't afford to lose on these opportunities. Yet, we can't hang our heads, as we got to turn around and play Toronto in a big game on Saturday."
After the two sides decide the domestic cup on the weekend, Toronto (3-7-9) moves on to New York to face the Red Bulls on July 6, while Vancouver (2-8-8) is home to Columbus Crew on the same day.
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