TORONTO - The Toronto FC faithful at BMO Field are creative. Sometimes, they are even witty. Tuesday, they had their words shoved back in their mouths.
About halfway though TFC's Nutrilite Canadian Championship game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the fans started to chant, "U-S-L, U-S-L." It was a reference to Whitecaps' league, USL First Division, which is a step below TFC's Major League Soccer.
Well, score one for the little guy. Vancouver, on the strength of a controversial penalty kick, earned a 1-0 win over TFC on Tuesday, marking the first time TFC has lost at BMO Field all year.
"That's the way it looked to me today: that we could just go out there and go through the motions," an irate TFC coach John Carver said after the game.
"Nobody is safe at this football club. Nobody is safe. They better realize that."
The winner of the three-team tournament will go on to play a Nicaraguan team in the CONCACAF Champions League. Montreal has earned six points through three games. TFC has three points through two games, while Vancouver earned its first win to go with two losses.
Vancouver hosts the return match next Wednesday.
Tuesday, TFC players were left to complain about a result many of them felt was unjust.
Vancouver's lone goal came after TFC's Jim Brennan was called for hauling down Jeff Clarke in the box away from the ball on a corner kick. Martin Nash converted from the penalty spot in the 36th minute.
"These are days a professional athlete lives for," said Nash, a Canadian international. "That's why you do it. It's a treat for us. It was an amazing crowd and an amazing atmosphere."
Although Carver was reluctant to use the goal as an excuse, he did joke that the last time he saw an obstruction call on a corner kick away from the box was in 1945.
His players were a bit harsher of the official's call.
"(Clarke) went down awfully easy," Brennan said. "I was marking him, he was grabbing my arm and he's falling down and that's why (I) was frustrated because of the way he went down. I don't think it was a penalty at all. I don't think anybody thought it was a penalty.
"I didn't think it was a fair game."
Brennan also felt that Jeff Cunningham's would-be tying marker in the 81st minute should have counted. Instead, it was called offside.
Cunningham celebrated the apparent goal by taking his shirt off and jumping into the crowd.
"It's a bit embarrassing, eh?" Cunningham said, agreeing with Brennan that the goal should have counted.
TFC's start, however, is what Carver felt was most embarrassing. He barely needed any prodding to tear a strip off his team in the post-game press conference. He made sure to note that he would not hesitate to rip up contracts.
"They couldn't pass the ball," Carver said. "There was no communication. There was nothing. It was lifeless. It was lacklustre. I'll take full responsibility for that because at halftime I changed it, and it was like night and day, the performance from the first half to the second half."
Indeed, TFC's play did improve after Carver replaced starters Danny Dichio, Laurent Robert and Rohan Ricketts with Julius James, Jarrod Smith and Cunningham. But Vancouver keeper Jay Nolly was up to the challenge, making save after save to preserve Vancouver's lead in the dying minutes.
"Any time you're taking a step up and playing a Toronto or MLS team or an exhibition against someone from overseas, it's fun, it's exciting and it's a challenge," Nolly said. "You just test yourself and your team to see how well you can do."
Tuesday, they did well enough to silence even the chirpiest TFC fan.
© National Post 2008