TFC red in the face - Toronto Sun

Blames CONCACAF loss to Vancouver on poor officiating

There were no Happy Canada Day wishes coming from a clearly steamed Toronto FC coach John Carver after his side suffered an excruciating 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps at BMO Field yesterday.

In fact, the TFC skipper called out the whole team for its first-half effort -- including his own roster decisions -- as the biggest factor in the team's first loss at home this season.

It also put pressure on TFC to win the next two games in the CONCACAF Canadian championship that will decide who will represent this country in the Champions League tournament in 2009.

But Carver restrained himself from blasting the work of referee Steven DePiero, who called a penalty shot on an obstruction foul by TFC captain Jim Brennan in the 36th minute.

It was a call that rarely is seen in soccer and on the resulting penalty kick, Vancouver's Martin Nash buried the ball behind TFC goalkeeper Greg Sutton.

"It wasn't a penalty, plain and simple," Brennan said. "I've played with (Jeff) Clarke since we were kids and I barely touched him and he went down like a stone."

After Carver brought in Jarrod Smith, Jeff Cunningham and rookie Julius James to start the second half, the game took on a new complexion.

"It was like night and day," Carver said. "I'll take responsibility. I put that team out in the first half and that team did not perform up to the standards we have set for this club."

But Vancouver held on to its one-goal advantage with a defence that is the best in the United Soccer League, havin given up only eight goals in 12 games this season.

Whitecap 'keeper Jay Nolly played a superb game, making save after save in the dying minutes of the game.

"Their goalkeeper played out of his mind," Carver said. "We weren't unlucky; we have to start scoring on the kinds of chances we had in the second half."

However, in the 81st minute, Cunningham appeared to have the equalizer after rushing in from the right side, only to be called offside.

Brennan said that call, too, was wrong.

"I hate making excuses because I wanted to win this game so badly," he said. "But first the penalty and then the offside. Two calls that were clearly wrong."

On a near perfect day for soccer, the 18,983 fans at BMO made their feelings known to DePiero with extended shouts of "bull****" after the penalty and the offside call.

Nash -- the younger brother of two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash -- said that Vancouver was not even the slightest bit fazed by the raucous crowd.

"It was the biggest, most boisterous crowd we've played in front of," he said. "But even before the game in the dressing room we talked about how having that kind of crowd made us excited. We couldn't wait to start playing."

Toronto plays in Vancouver July 9 for the second half of the home-and-home series. TFC now must win on the West Coast and return to Toronto and win against Montreal Impact at BMO on July 22.