TFC, Whitecaps square off in cross-coast battle
TORONTO -- With clear skies on an idyllic Canada Day last year, the Vancouver Whitecaps scored a major upset at BMO Field.
With the weather taking a 180-degree turn on Wednesday night, so did the Whitecaps' fortunes.
Toronto FC opened this year's edition of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship with something it could not accomplish last year - a home win. TFC, the tournament favourite by virtue of playing in a higher league than its opponents, took care of Vancouver 1-0 in a driving rainstorm in Toronto.
Last year, Vancouver was able to come into Toronto and upset TFC 1-0 on the strength of a late penalty kick goal. This time, the Whitecaps lacked punch, and for the most part, were far outclassed.
"We had a point to prove, obviously, from last year," TFC coach Chris Cummins said. "But I thought we should have gone on to win the game a little bit more comfortably than what we did."
Trailing for almost the entire game, Vancouver did not create much trouble in the second half as the Whitecaps looked for the equalizer. They did have one golden chance, as forward Marlon James got in behind the TFC defence in the 86th minute. But his shot on the goal did not get off the ground, and TFC goalkeeper Stefan Frei lunged to make the save of the evening.
Vancouver did not get any closer, as TFC will take three points into its home date with Montreal next Wednesday.
There was some speculation that Canadian ‘keeper Greg Sutton might get the start for TFC because of the nature of the tournament. But Frei has been solid all year.
"He's made the save at the right time," Cummins said. It's another clean sheet for the young kid."
TFC put nightmares of last year to bed early, with Dwayne De Rosario making an immediate impact in his first tournament game. Given a great forward pass from Amado Guevara, De Rosario made a threatening diagonal run into the box. Cut off by a defender, he delivered an accurate cross to another Canadian, Kevin Harmse, who finished it off with a header in the third minute.
The goal knocked the Whitecaps back on their heels immediately.
"We had to be very careful in the way we attacked [because of the goal]. I would say we didn't really attack the way we wanted until the end when we pushed people forward," Vancouver coach Teitur Thordarson said.
When Vancouver did get chances, they were generally wasted.
On at least two occasions, a Whitecap ended up with the ball by his foot, with an attempt at a volley. Twice, the ball sailed over the net.
"I'm quite happy with the way we tackled the game, the way we played the game," Thordarson said. "But of course, not happy with the result."
The game was the start of the second edition of the tournament. Last year, Montreal won the tournament in a surprise. The Impact then went onto to advance to the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League, attracting more than 55,500 fans to Olympic Stadium for a game in February, before bowing out.
It immediately squashed the theory that Montreal and Vancouver, two teams in the lower USL First Division, could not compete with Major League Soccer's TFC.