With eight starters from MLS First Kick in the starting XI, Vancouver Whitecaps FC felt confident that they could replicate their 4-2 win over Toronto FC. This time, however, things just didn’t go their way.
Only able to finish one of their numerous scoring chances, Vancouver had to settle for a 1-1 draw against their Canadian rivals in the first leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship final at Empire Field on Wednesday night.
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“It’s always frustrating to walk off the field with a 1-1 draw after the way we dominated the game tonight,” said Jay DeMerit after playing his first full match since opening day. “But you have to look at the positives.”
The biggest positive for Vancouver was seeing their captain and their Designated Player – striker Eric Hassli – on the field at the same time after not having played together since that inaugural MLS match.
Their impact was obvious from the opening whistle, with DeMerit’s presence inspiring confidence and Hassli providing a scoring threat, banging the post before finally scoring Vancouver’s goal with a great strike in the 64th minute.
“I think they played extremely well,” said head coach Teitur Thordarson. “I thought we dominated the game for 75 minutes. It’s unbelievable that we didn’t score more goals.”
The man at the forefront of those goalscoring opportunities was Camilo. The Brazilian striker was on the attack all night, forcing a fine save from Toronto FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei in the first half before nearly drawing a penalty, barely missing out on a goalline header and hitting the crossbar all in a seven-minute span early in the second half.
“I felt that we were the better team in the second half,” said goalkeeper Jay Nolly. “We should take some confidence out of this game in that we were positive and we were creating good chances going forward with numbers and we were defending well.
“There are a lot of good things to take from this game, but we’re definitely disappointed with the chances we had that we didn’t put them away.”
With a weekend off from MLS play, the ‘Caps immediately look ahead to next Wednesday’s decisive second leg, knowing that they need to score to overturn Toronto FC’s away-goal advantage.
“You have to think that it’s halftime,” said DeMerit of the two-game aggregate goals series. “You have to think that if we go do that there, we’ll come out on the right end and win it. That has to be the positive thinking in a two-leg series.”