VANCOUVER, BC – An inconsolable Nicolas Mezquida left the pitch in tears. David Ousted stood at the halfway line, with his hands on his knees, for what seemed like an eternity. As the crowd left for the exits, Jordan Harvey remained on the pitch staring at the skies.
The ‘Caps were shattered. They couldn't believe what had just happened.
Neither could the 19,376 fans in attendance.
With Vancouver Whitecaps FC leading 2-1 on aggregate, Toronto FC’s Will Johnson scored in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time to end Vancouver’s Voyageurs Cup defence in heartbreak.
After a 1-0 win in the first leg, Toronto FC were crowned Canadians champions in Wednesday night’s second leg at BC Place by virtue of the away goals tiebreaker. The 'Caps won the match 2-1 with goals from Mezquida and Tim Parker, but it wasn’t enough.
The aggregate score ended at 2-2 and Toronto FC’s away goal proved the difference.
“I’m absolutely gutted for the guys, because they gave me and the club and the organization absolutely everything," said Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson. "And we deserved to win, but we didn’t win. So I could talk to you about how well they played and how proud I am of them, but as I said football’s a cruel game and it was certainly cruel tonight for the guys."
<a href="//www.whitecapsfc.com/post/2016/06/29/carl-robinson-june-29?autoplay=true" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="https://vancouver-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/mp6/interview_robinson_w.png" style="width: 140px; height: 60px; "></a><a href="//www.whitecapsfc.com/post/2016/06/29/jordan-harvey-june-29?autoplay=true" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="https://vancouver-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/elfinderimages/2016_interview_Harvey.png" style="width: 140px; height: 60px; "></a><a href="//www.whitecapsfc.com/post/2016/06/29/tim-parker-june-29?autoplay=true" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="https://vancouver-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/elfinderimages/2016_interview_Parker.png" style="width: 140px; height: 60px;"></a>
"That’s probably the worst way I’ve ever lost a game in my entire career, starting from when I was maybe six-years-old," Harvey said. "Devastated man, really. I can’t really put it into any other words than that. It's definitely crushing."
It was another Amway Canadian Championship for the history books – and that’s saying something considering some of the things we’ve seen in this tournament.
Unlike last year, however, it didn’t end with a trophy celebration at BC Place.
At least not for the home team.
After a 1-0 loss in the first leg, the 'Caps knew they needed to win by at least two goals on Wednesday to repeat as Canadian champions. That was reflected in Robinson’s starting lineup. Robinson fielded a strong side that featured the likes of Pedro Morales, Matias Laba, Kendall Waston, and Ousted, who was making his first appearance of this year’s tournament.
The ‘Caps also knew how damaging it would be to concede an away goal. That – along with TFC’s defensive approach – made for a cagey opening half.
Both sides still had their chances, however.
Laba and Russell Teibert put in a heck of a shift defensively, limiting reigning MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco to just a pair of opportunities. In the 14th minute, he curled a left-footed strike from distance just wide and in the 33th minute he had a free kick that Ousted comfortably saved.
The ‘Caps also looked dangerous at times – particularly towards the end of the half.
Christian Bolaños came close in the 38th minute, directing a Kekuta Manneh cross just over the goal. And right before the break, Laba forced TFC keeper Alex Bono into a fantastic diving save on a heavy strike from just inside the box.
Robinson was forced to make a change at the half, as Teibert left the match with a quad strain. It was a tough blow for the Canadian, who may have been Vancouver’s best player to that point.
But he would have been pleased with the immediate result.
Mezquida took Teibert’s place and brilliantly headed in a Harvey cross in the 47th minute to put Vancouver ahead – and tie the aggregate score – with his first touch of the game.
From there, the two sides traded a couple chances – Ousted dove to his right to deny a Mo Babouli rocket and Bolaños just missed Andrew Jacobson at the back post on a free kick – before Whitecaps FC took the series lead in the 68th minute.
After a Whitecaps FC corner was cleared, Laba launched a long ball back into the box and Parker chested it down before finishing with his left foot to give Vancouver the 2-1 aggregate lead. It was the second straight year Parker had scored in the Amway Canadian Championship Final, and it set up one of the most thrilling endings to a match you’ll ever see.
The ‘Caps nearly put the match to bed on several occasions.
Alphonso Davies, 15, had a partial breakaway denied by Bono in the 81st minute before Bolaños’ rebound was blocked. Then, in stoppage time, Blas Perez hit the post on a counter.
It still looked like Vancouver might hold on, as the allotted four minutes of stoppage time went by.
But early in the fifth minute, Toronto FC sent a long ball into the box. Ousted came off his line to grab it, but collided with Waston in the process. Johnson then jumped on the loose ball and fired it towards goal. Harvey nearly came up with a miraculous goalline block, but it was not to be.
Just like that, the joy of victory turned into the agony of defeat.
Will Johnson at the end!!! CANADIAN CHAMPIONS! pic.twitter.com/C1tGpoDsGU— Toronto FC (@torontofc) June 30, 2016
Johnson’s stoppage time-stunner gave Toronto FC their record fifth Voyageurs Cup. Rightly or wrongly, and many will feel it's the latter, an emotional Ousted put the loss on his shoulders.
"I’ll come out and say it, I cost us that one, I cost us the championship," he told reporters. "That’s the thing, it's heart wrenching right now. Do I have to come out on that one? Definitely I do. If you want a keeper that is going to stay on his line and not take responsibility, I’m not your guy. That’s my ball. Should I have punched it? Maybe, but I would make that decision again. It’s my ball, if I hold it it’s over. But that’s the job, some days that happens and one mistake can be the difference.”
Next up for Whitecaps FC is a visit to LA Galaxy for an Independence Day clash on Monday at the StubHub Center (7:30 p.m. PT on TSN and TSN 1040).
“There are two ways to go," Harvey added. "We’ve got a tough game on Monday, fourth of July in LA. We’ve got to pick our heads up. It’s going to hurt, maybe tonight, but coming in tomorrow we’ve got to pick our heads up and use this as motivation to push on the rest of the season."
Budweiser Man of the Match: Tim Parker
Referee: Drew Fischer
47’ – VAN – Nicolas Mezquida (Jordan Harvey)
68’ – VAN – Tim Parker (Matias Laba)
90’ + 5’ – TFC – Will Johnson
Possession: Vancouver 44.7 % – Toronto 55.3 %
Shots: Vancouver 16 – Toronto 15
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 6 – Toronto 4
Saves: Vancouver 3 – Toronto 4
Fouls: Vancouver 17 – Toronto 8
Offsides: Vancouver 3 – Toronto 0
Corners: Vancouver 1 – Toronto 6
32’ – VAN – Kendall Waston
62’ – VAN – Kekuta Manneh
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 26.Tim Parker, 17.Andrew Jacobson, 4.Kendall Waston, 2.Jordan Harvey; 15.Matías Laba, 31.Russell Teibert (11.Nicolás Mezquida HT); 7.Christian Bolaños, 77.Pedro Morales ©, 23.Kekuta Manneh (67.Alphonso Davies 70’); 19.Erik Hurtado (27.Blas Pérez 83’)
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 6.Jordan Smith, 13.Cristian Techera, 44.Pa-Modou Kah
25.Alex Bono; 6.Nick Hagglund, 15.Eriq Zavaleta, 3.Drew Moor, 2.Justin Morrow; 18.Marco Delgado, 8.Benoit Cheyrou © (9.Tsubasa Endoh 74’), 7.Will Johnson, 21.Jonathan Osorio (48.Raheem Edwards 86’); 10.Sebastian Giovinco, 11.Mo Babouli (22.Jordan Hamilton 73’)
Substitutes not used
40.Quillian Roberts, 14.Jay Chapman, 22.Josh Williams, 28.Mark Bloom
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