TFC under the gun as Whitecaps stay alive - Globe and Mail


Matthew Sekeres

BURNABY, B.C. — As Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson was doing a celebratory flip on the pitch, Toronto FC head coach Chris Cummins was heading back to an explosive losers' locker room.

The TFC players, fresh off a 2-0 defeat before a standing-room crowd of 5,688 at Swangard Stadium on Tuesday, began infighting after the crushing loss in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. Cummins fanned their flames.

“There are players in there calling people out, which is right,” the coach fumed. “I’ve got to question hunger, desire, passion, and the willingness to learn and win.

“There were probably four players who had that on the night, and they know who they are,” the coach continued. “I’ve already questioned that, and they’ve questioned it as well.”

The result means that TFC, Canada’s only team in Major League Soccer, the continent’s premier professional league, must now defeat the Montreal Impact by four goals in the finale of the Canadian championship. Anything less, and the Whitecaps will add the Voyageurs Cup, named for Canada’s national soccer supporters group and presented to the tournament champion, to its United Soccer Leagues First Division title from last year.

TFC visits Montreal’s Saputo Stadium on June 18 to conclude the three-team, six-game tournament. The Impact, eliminated from the 2009 tournament after three consecutive defeats, are the defending Canadian champion.

Vancouver and Montreal play in the less prestigious USL-1, though the Whitecaps are moving to MLS in 2011.

On Tuesday, midfielder Ansu Toure scored both goals, including a magnificent left-foot strike in the 81st minute, to give the home side important breathing room in any possible tiebreaker scenarios. Toronto could have won the national title with a win or a draw on Tuesday, but now faces a monstrous task.

Thordarson, an Icelander in his second season with the Whitecaps, was so delighted with his team that he performed a standing flip at the final whistle.

He said advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League, the next step for the Canadian champion, would mean further development because the team could be kept together through the winter, depending on how far it advances. The CONCACAF preliminary round begins in late July.

“I just did it,” Thordason explained when asked about the flip. “I didn’t know what I was doing. It has been many years.”

Meanwhile, TFC tempers matched their red shirts.

Toronto had scads of chances on Whitecaps keeper Jay Nolly, but couldn’t score despite 15 shots, six on target. It has been a recent theme for the MLS side, so Cummins pulled no punches.

“We had chances again, but if you’re not clinical in front of the goal, you are not going to get anything,” he said. “We’ve had chances but we haven’t played well… We could’ve played shockingly and won the game, and I would’ve been happy.”

Toronto’s first great opportunity came in the 38th minute, when Lyle Martin’s goal-line clearance – with Nolly out of his net – prevented a goal by Dwayne De Rosario. The second, just three minutes later, came when Pablo Vitti hit the near-side post after a run down the right flank.

Halftime came and went, but the TFC onslaught continued.

Chad Barrett had a clear header from several yards away, but placed it right in Nolly’s midsection. Later, Carl Robinson had some time and space inside the box, but mishit his one-timer. And in the 76th minute, Sam Cronin’s shot from good position nicked a defender and missed the target.

“There were a few scares in there,” Nolly said. “Sometimes, the ball goes your way.”

Against Montreal, TFC will have to make do without defender Kevin Harmse, who received a yellow card in the 63rd minute and will be suspended for the tournament finale.

Vancouver’s Toure had opened the scored in the 31st minute, finishing a rebound on first touch. The initial shot came from Wes Knight, and was saved by TFC goalkeeper Greg Sutton.

Toronto beat Vancouver 1-0 on May 6 at BMO Field, in the opening match of the Canadian tournament.