The Whitecaps had the better of the chances, but had to settle for a frustrating home draw.A perfect warm summer night greeted the 15,000 Vancouver fans that decided not to stay home and watch hockey. They will go away happy with a few performances but disappointed at giving up a one goal lead. The goals from Hassli and Santos were from the top drawer but Toronto will be happier with the tie - and the away goal - than Vancouver will be. The teams will return to Toronto next week for the second leg of the Nutrilife Canadian Championship Final.
The match started slowly as both teams looked to get their feet. The Whitecaps pushed up Terry Dunfield in the midfield looking to create more offense and he took the game's first chance in the 5th minute. Eric Hassli dragged Richard Eckersley out of position and Dunfield ran into the hole, as the through ball found him in the box with time, but his shot scuffed wide of the right post.
Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit was finally fully fit and his leadership was immediately noticeable on the field. His timing and physicality was enough to keep Maicon Santos at bay in the early stages of the game.
Toronto had a hard time passing their way up the pitch and resorted to crosses from Soolsma far too often.
The Whitecaps were the more dangerous of the two teams and on the 30 minute mark got the game’s best chance. Camilo, after wasting a few opportunities, cut in from the left and got off a decent shot. Stefan Frei did well to save, but the ball popped up and Salinas wasn’t able to out-jump his marker to nod it into the open net.
The two teams seemed out of sync and very few chances were created for the rest of the half. Both teams lacked the final ball, and in most cases the first and second ball as well.
Toronto walked away happy with the 0-0 halftime score, but the Whitecaps showed they could expose them going forward.
The second half kicked off with some controversy as Camilo was clearly hacked down in the box and the ref completely missed the call. Immediately afterwards, Hassli did well to find space and banged it off the post.
With defenders still pushed up from the previous chance, the ball was sent back into far post where Jay Demerit had a gaping cage to head home, but he sent it back across the net.
The Whitecaps came out shooting right after the half. Two minutes after all those early misses, Camilo had another great chance and blasted it off the cross bar. No one at Empire Field could understand how the game was still 0-0.
To add insult to injury for Whitecaps fans, in the 58th minute Camilo and Davide Chiumiento made a wonderful give and go to send Chiumiento in alone on a sharp angle. There wasn’t much net to shoot at but he sent it way over the bar anyways from about six feet out. The stadium filled with groans.
In the 63rd minute, Hassli received the ball, cut in on the right side, and uncorked a curler in to the left corner. Stefan Frei could do nothing but get his fingertips on it. It was the Whitecaps first goal from distance this year and what a beauty it was.
After the goal, the Whitecaps started to sit back on their one-goal lead and TFC began to create chances. The chances were wasted with shots directed right at Jay Nolly, but on the 73rd minute they got their away goal. Maicon Santos flicked on a Soolsma cross that went painfully into the far post. It was wonderful skill by Santos to redirect the cross, something the Whitecaps had been missing all night.
With Hassli and Camilo subbed off for Khalfan and Salgado, and Teibert on for Salinas, the Whitecaps again used their substitution in like-for-like situations, something the fans have been moaning about.
With the three players that were doing a lot of creating for the Whitecaps off, they were left with long speculative crosses into the box, none of which tested Frei. Omar Salgado does look to be the Whitecaps best aerial option going forward, but the 17 year-old couldn’t get any real strength on any headers.
After the goal, Toronto was quite happy to be tied with an away goal and tried as best they could to close up shop. They will count themselves lucky to not be down a few goals tonight, and will now fancy themselves moving on to the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary rounds.
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