BURNABY, BC - An Eddy Sebrango brace, his second coming late in the game, helped the Whitecaps salvage a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC in front of a sellout crowd at Swangard during the return leg of the Canadian Series of the CONCACAF Champions League Qualifier.
A draw may have meant very little in terms of the outcome of the competition, but there was Canadian pride at stake.
Before the game, the raucous TFC fans could be heard chanting noisily while being called ‘hosers’ by the more fervent Whitecaps fans. Thankfully, a Canadian derby never gets as ugly or violent as they do in Europe. It did make for a great derby atmosphere at Swangard, treating the fans to a very entertaining and passionate game of soccer.
Though the home side created the first chance of the game early on, the rest of the half belonged to the visitors. Had it not been for a bit of luck and some poor finishing by the MLS side, Vancouver could easily have been trailing by a couple at the half.
First, it was Jeff Cunningham heading just wide on 15 minutes. Toronto then sustained pressure for several more minutes, climaxing with Rohan Ricketts catching a Marvell Wayne cross on the volley and cracking it off the crossbar. The ball was finally cleared out after a scramble in the box, and the ensuing header saw TFC Tyrone Marshall's glancing header bounce just wide of the post to keep the game scoreless.
Despite being outplayed, the 'Caps managed to keep TFC at bay long enough to score the only goal of the first half.
Catching Toronto on the break, tricky little winger Justin Moose found some room on the right and let go of a hard shot just outside of the 18 yard box that goalie Greg Sutton could only parry straight back out to Moose. He faked a second shot and when the defender had committed, slipped the ball to ‘El Fiable’ Sebrango who coolly slotted it past Sutton for the lead.
Against the trend for many of their home games this season, the Whitecaps were outplayed but in the lead going into the dressing room at halftime.
In the second half, it was TFC who started the brightest with 2007 MLS Rookie of Year Maurice Edu sky a shot over the net after a neat set up by Cunningham.
The Toronto midfielder, however, was not to be denied in the 60th minute when he slotted home the equalizer. The speedy Cunningham blew by the not-so-speedy 'Caps defender Omar Jarun, then cut the ball back for Laurent Robert. Robert duffed his shot, but Edu was there to finish.
The goal enabled the game to open up a little and tempers began to flare between fellow central midfielders Kindel and Robinson as the game heated up.
Toronto then took the lead in the 75th minute courtesy of a Rohan Ricketts strike that just squeezed in past Jay Nolly on his short side, capping a fine run and dish by midfielder Amado Guevara. The Whitecaps defence can surely be blamed for the goal, allowing Guevara too much space to work with.
To their credit, Vancouver did not give in to their bigger MLS brothers. A questionable substitution by TFC manager John Carver saw him bring in local boy Kevin Harmse, a midfielder, for defender Marco Velez, forcing Maurice Edu back into the unfamiliar role of centre back.
Edu's inexperience in the position quickly paid dividends for the 'Caps as the substitute Jason Jordan flicked a goal kick from Nolly down the middle that Edu should have dealt with. However, the hardworking Sebrango snuck in behind him to steal the ball and go in one on one with the keeper. He easily rounded the hapless Sutton and notched his second goal of the game.
Whether Toronto returned home with a win or a draw makes no difference in regards to the last game against Montreal scheduled to take place on July 22 at BMO Field. What was essential was not to lose.
A win or a draw simply means that only a win against Montreal will ensure TFC be the lone Canadian qualifier into the next round against the Nicaraguan champions. The Montreal Impact are now in the driver's seat as they can play for the draw.
Though the Whitecaps will finish last in the competition, a win and a draw against a competitive MLS side, suggests there is very little separating the two teams – a point reiterated by both coaches after the game - and can only enhance the 'Caps chances of claiming a spot in North America's top league in the future.
“Both Montreal and Vancouver can cope with the MLS there is no question,” said Carver.
Are you listening MLS selection committee?
Man of Match: Eddy Sebrango
He scored both goals and worked hard all night long. A top class player all the way.