The expansion club brushed aside worries about the attack to overpower Toronto.The Vancouver Whitecaps kicked off their first MLS season with a final score that no one would have predicted: an exciting 4-2 win over Canadian rivals Toronto FC with a brace from Eric Hassli.
TFC tried out their new total football system and Aron Winter will not like what he saw. The Caps kept to their game plan of getting balls up to Hassli and strike partner Atiba Harris to create space while the wide players caught up.
The first half started off rather cagey and TFC went into total football mode. The Caps countered their passing with hard work from Terry Dunfield and Gershon Koffie.
On the eighth minute Hassli started to go to work. He controlled a pass sprayed it out to Russell Teibert wide left, who immediately looked to put it back in the box. The cross fell to Davide Chiumiento 15 yards out and only a well timed foot from Attakora prevented the Caps first goal.
Then in the 14th minute the Caps broke through with their first ever goal coming from their first ever DP. Chiumiento was sent free up the right wing and crossed to the two big men in the box, Hassli and Harris. Harris let the ball run past him and all that the big Frenchman had to do was slam it home.
The Caps had their tails up and it showed. Passes from the TFC defence to their midfield were cut out by Dunfield and Koffie and the counterattack was dangerous.
Then, against the run of play, Michael Boxall didn’t pick up Dwayne De Rosario’s angled run. Maicon Santos found him with the pass and the Canadian banged home from the right side.
The Caps didn’t get frustrated, though. They stuck to the script of sending the ball early to the big men up front to control and send it to the wings. They were rewarded for their perseverance in the 26th minute, and this time from local hero Terry Dunfield.
Chiumiento wide right sent Dunfield through on the right channel and Dunfield made no mistake, slotting across the low left-hand side. It was almost too much for the local fans and the ponchos that were handed out rained down from above. Terry Dunfield did his bit by getting a yellow card for leaping into the stands.
The rest of the half played out with more of the same as poor Adrian Cann got burned time and time again. The Caps should have been up two at the end of the half as Jay DeMerit, Harris, and Hassli all missed from quality chances. Good thing Cann had a full and productive preseason.
The second half started with one substitute for each team. Vancouver brought on Nizar Khalfan on for Chiumiento and TFC exchanged Nick Soolsma for Keith Makubuya.
Hassli kicked off the action at the 49th minute of the second with a goal that was called back for a shirt pull. A yellow card was his only reward.
The TFC defense flexed but did not break as the Caps forwards were getting behind them, but couldn’t quite finish. TFC struggled to get anything started and the Caps confidence grew with every passing minute.
Wave after wave of Caps attack came but all they could muster were wasted corners until the 63rd minute. Teibert sent in a great corner that was met by Atiba Harris. His header bounced around and ended at his feet. There was no way he was going to miss from there and he passed it into the center of the net - 3 -1 Caps.
And Empire Field hit fever pitch in the 72nd minute. Local favorite Wes Knight, who had come on for an injured Teibert, was sent through on his own. Having never scored before, he immediately looked for a follower and Hassli was more than happy to take the open tap in. 4-1 Caps.
Two minutes later, Santos scored an absolute screamer against the run of play. He was given time and put it top left corner. The Caps will take that as a warning of the skill that exists in the MLS.
Control, send it to Hassli or Harris, spray it to the wings, repeat. This went on to finish the game and TFC left wondering if this total football thing is all it cracked up to be.
The Whitecaps fans did their best to send the traveling fans home happy by serenading them with a wave and the chants of "na na na na, hey hey, goodbye!"