Early goal from Hamse stands up as the winner as TFC opens tourney with solid victory
Coming into last night's game against the Vancouver Whitecaps there were questions whether Toronto FC would rest some of its starters for a busy stretch of league play.
But, as promised, coach Chris Cummins fielded a largely first-string lineup and played them the full 90 minutes, a testament to the value he places on winning the Canadian Championship.
It was one of the few changes, Vancouver native Kevin Harmse in place of American Sam Cronin, that made the difference. The Canadian midfielder headed home a beautiful cross from Dwayne De Rosario in the third minute as TFC beat Vancouver 1-0.
"A great cross from De Ro," said Harmse, normally a defender when he's in the lineup. "Nothing more than a midfielder just getting in the box, trying to make a difference, trying to earn a spot in the team, especially in that midfield role."
But the home side, the only Major League Soccer squad in the three-team tournament that also includes the defending champion Montreal Impact, should have won by a wider margin before 19,811 fans on a rain-soaked night at BMO Field. Montreal and Vancouver play in the United Soccer League's First Division.
Looking one step ahead of the Whitecaps all night, TFC carried the bulk of the play, forcing goalkeeper Jay Nolly to make numerous saves to keep it close.
Meanwhile, Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who was seldom tested, made a game-saving stop with his right hand in the 86th minute on a hard, low shot by Marlon James.
TFC had nine shots on goal to just two for the visitors.
"If we were a bit more clinical in front of the goal we would have gone on and won a lot more comfortably," Cummins said.
De Rosario, making his first start in three games after suffering a hamstring injury, was a force all night.
He beat defenders with speed and finesse, frequently showing the flashes of brilliance fans expected when he was acquired in an off-season trade from Houston.
On the goal, Pablo Vitti laid the ball off in the midfield to Amado Guevara, who sent a lovely long ball to a streaking De Rosario down the left side.
He mesmerized defender Jeff Parke with some brilliant footwork as he took it towards the end line before sending a cross to the far post, where Harmse nodded it past Nolly.
It was the first goal Harmse has scored in a TFC jersey since being acquired in a trade from the Los Angeles Galaxy before last season.
Vancouver coach Teitur Thordarsson said he was "quite happy with the way we tackled the game, but of course not happy with the result."
He felt his team should have been awarded a penalty in the seventh minute when James appeared to be pulled down in the 18-yard box by Nana Attakora-Gyan.
The winner of the three-team tournament gets the Voyageurs Cup and entry into the CONCACAF Champions League, which features the best teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
TFC hosts Montreal next Wednesday.
After the goal, Toronto kept up the attack, forcing Nolly to make five saves in the next 30 minutes.
One of the best chances came in the eighth minute when Chad Barrett broke in clear down the left side and hit a hard, low shot that Nolly stopped.