Whitecaps edge TFC - Globe and Mail

Peter Mallet

Vancouver gets on the board in Canadian championship with hard-fought win

TORONTO - The United Soccer Leagues' Vancouver Whitecaps kept their Canadian championship hopes alive by the slimmest of margins yesterday, withstanding a late game onslaught by Major League Soccer's Toronto FC for a 1-0 victory at BMO Field.

"It was a high-fantastic, high-energy win for us - to come here and get a result after a hard-fought battle for 90 minutes was just incredible," Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson said.

It was the first home loss for Toronto this season.

Toronto's record slipped to 1-1-0 in the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round tournament while Vancouver improved to 1-2-0.

Whitecaps midfielder Martin Nash scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the 37th minute after Toronto defender Jim Brennan hauled down Jeff Clarke inside the 18-yard box.

Clarke had collected a corner kick from midfielder Justin Moose to the right of the Toronto goal when Brennan put both of his arms around Clarke, who fell to the ground. Referee Steve Dipiero immediately pointed to the penalty spot.

Nash stroked a hard low shot to the left of Toronto goalkeeper Greg Sutton, who dove to his right.

Vancouver almost added to its lead soon after when midfielder Steve Kindel strung a long ball to Alfredo Valente to the left of the Toronto penalty area, but Whitecaps striker Eduardo Sabrango had his volley kicked away by a diving Sutton.

The first half was a chippy affair with four yellow cards handed out and tempers boiling over several times. Brennan was issued his second yellow card of the tournament and is suspended for Toronto's next match in Vancouver after becoming involved in a shoving match with Nash in the 11th minute.

Toronto looked lacklustre in the first half, with scoring chances limited to a few long-distance shots on goal that were easily handed by Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly.

"The team I sent out in the first half didn't seem to have any energy and appeared lifeless - our fans deserved better than that," Toronto head coach John Carver said. "Vancouver was attacking us and closing players down, but for us, it looked like we thought we could just go out there and go through the motions.

"Nobody on the team is going to get away with an attitude like that. I'll cancel their contracts if necessary."

Carver said one fan was ejected by security for "having a go" at him after the final whistle and voicing his disapproval. Carver said the team deserved the abuse, and he will do anything in his power to make sure the fan isn't punished.

Carver elected to use all three of his substitutes at halftime, sending in striker Jeff Cunningham for Danny Dichio, midfielder Julius James for Rohan Ricketts and midfielder Jarrod Smith for Laurent Robert.

The half-time changes gave Toronto an early lift, as Cunningham almost orchestrated a tying goal in the 46th minute, challenging Nolly for a high ball in the penalty area and knocking the netminder to the ground.

Nolly got to his feet, however, and punched away a Maurice Edu blast that was headed into the empty Vancouver goal.

"[Nolly] is just a great shot blocker; he made some world class saves tonight and for me he was the man of the match," Cunningham said.

Cunningham thought he had tied the game in the 81st minute, but the play was ruled offside and he emerged from a celebration in the grandstand with his shirt off and a yellow card from the referee.

"Some of the fans ripped the shirt off my back; I was practising that celebration for a few weeks now," Cunningham said. "It was slightly embarrassing: I couldn't hear the whistle, didn't think I was offside and really thought we had scored the goal."

In the 86th minute, Toronto had its best chance to score, when a hard shot during a goalmouth scramble hit the cross bar and landed near the goal. Toronto failed, however, to put the rebound past Nolly.

Toronto had been undefeated at BMO Field this season with five wins and three ties. Its next home game is on Saturday night against Mexican first division side Pachuca before heading to Burnaby, B.C., for another Canadian championship game against the Whitecaps on July 9.

Vancouver, which had lost its previous two tournament games to the Montreal Impact, must win its remaining game against Toronto to have any chance of advancing.

Toronto's next MLS game is in Chicago on July 12, while the Whitecaps play their next USL contest in Rochester, N.Y., on Saturday.