TORONTO, ON – A youthful Vancouver Whitecaps FC side put up a valiant effort but came up just short against Toronto FC, falling 2-1 in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal Wednesday evening at BMO Field.
Goals from Designated Players Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley put Toronto FC ahead 2-0, but substitute Kekuta Manneh pulled one back for Whitecaps FC in stoppage time – a goal that could prove pivotal with the away goals rule in effect.
It was surely an encouraging performance for Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson, whose starting lineup had three teenagers and an average age of 22.11 years old. Toronto FC, meanwhile, fielded an experienced side that featured each of their three Designated Players.
There were a total of five Canadians in Vancouver’s starting lineup on Wednesday and it was the first-team debut for four of them. The youngest of the bunch was 17-year-old goalkeeper Marco Carducci, who became Whitecaps FC’s first Homegrown goalkeeper signing in March.
Carducci was joined by 20-year-old Bryce Alderson and 18-year-old Residency midfielders Marco Bustos and Kianz Froese. Russell Teibert, who wore the captain’s armband for the young ‘Caps, rounded out the group of Canadians in the starting XI.
Also of note, defender Christian Dean and midfielder Nicolas Mezquida both made their first starts for Whitecaps FC in an official match.
As expected, Toronto got off to an energetic start in front of their home crowd. They had a pair of chances in the opening five minutes, but a sliding Carlyle Mitchell block and goalline clearance from Bustos on the ensuing corner kept them off the scoresheet.
The young ‘Caps began to settle in after weathering the early storm. They looked more comfortable in possession as the match went on, but Toronto continued to cause problems with their attacking play.
Eventually, the Reds were rewarded with a goal in the 28th minute on a play that was deemed to be just onside. Two of their Designated Players combined as Gilberto released Defoe into the box with a well-played through ball and the Englishman slotted it in past a sprawling Carducci.
Defoe had another great chance five minutes later, as he found some space in the right side of the box. But this time Carducci came up with a big save off a shot from the longtime English Premier League striker to keep Toronto’s lead at 1-0.
Although Toronto had the better chances in the first half, the Blue and White controlled 57 per cent of possession and did not shy away from the fight. Their best chance of the half came in the 43rd minute, when Teibert broke into the box after playing a lovely one-two with Froese.
But Reds goalkeeper Joe Bendik made a fantastic sprawling save, followed by a sliding goalline block from defender Doneil Henry on Mezquida’s rebound attempt.
Through Toronto had a few more chances, including an Issey Nakajima-Farran header that went just wide, Vancouver looked much brighter in the second half.
Bendik was forced to make another brilliant save in the 75th minute, when substitute Omar Salgado let loose a heavy left-footed shot from the top of the box. Just moments later, Bendik tipped a curling Salgado cross just over the goal.
After bringing on Manneh and Sebastian Fernandez, the ‘Caps kept pushing forward in the dying stages of the second half. Toronto caught them on the counter in the 89th minute, however, when Bradley finished from inside the box with a perfect low strike just beyond Carducci’s outstretched arms.
But to their credit, the ‘Caps came marching back. And just before the final whistle, thanks to some fine work from Salgado in the box, a deflected Mezquida cross landed at Manneh’s feet and the 19-year-old Gambian slammed it in from close range – his fourth goal in all competitions this season.
The goal wasn’t enough to secure a result for Vancouver on this day; however, it puts them in a good position heading into the second leg of the Canadian Championship semifinal next Wednesday, May 14 at BC Place. Tickets are still available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets.
The team that scores the greater aggregate of goals over the two legs will advance to the final, where they will meet either Montreal Impact or FC Edmonton. If Vancouver and Toronto have scored the same number of aggregate goals after the two legs, the team that scores more away goals is determined as the winner.
It’s not too late to participate in the best sporting experience in Vancouver. Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets ($199), and a youth soccer half-season ticket ($100). Single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.
Tweet of the Game
Stat of the Game
The visiting 'Caps, who had just two players above the age of 25 in their starting lineup, controlled 50.5 per cent of posession against the star-studded Reds.
Quote of the Game
“We don’t give up. We have a never-say-die attitude. Obviously it comes with an energy and a youthfulness of young players, but it’s a credit to them. I think we warranted something out of the game at the end of it. I’m really, really proud of the boys in there today. We had a young team. It was younger than young, but I wanted to give players opportunities. I think today, a lot of my young players grabbed the opportunity." - Carl Robinson
Budweiser Man of the Match: Russell Teibert
Referee: Mathieu Bourdeau
28’ – TOR – Jermain Defoe (Gilberto)
89’ – TOR – Michael Bradley (Jermain Defoe)
90’ + 2 – VAN – Kekuta Manneh
Shots: Toronto 14 – Vancouver 13
Shots on Goal: Toronto 4 – Vancouver 6
Saves: Toronto 4 – Vancouver 2
Fouls: Toronto 8 – Vancouver 10
Offsides: Toronto 4 – Vancouver 2
Corners: Toronto 6 – Vancouver 4
31’ – TOR – Michael Bradley
48’ – VAN – Carlyle Mitchell
60’ – VAN – Nigel Reo-Coker
90’ + 2 – VAN – Kekuta Manneh
90’ + 2 – TOR – Dwayne De Rosario
12.Joe Bendik; 28.Mark Bloom, 13. Steven Caldwell, 15.Doneil Henry, 2.Justin Morrow; 20.Issey Nakajima-Farran (14. Dwyane De Rosario 79’), 8.Kyle Bekker, 4.Michael Bradley, 23.Alvaro Rey; 18.Jermain Defoe, 9.Gilberto (32.Andrew Wiedeman 89’)
Substitutes not used
30.Julio Cesar, 5.Ashtone Morgan, 16.Bradley Orr, 17.Nick Hagglund, 33.Ryan Richter
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
44.Marco Carducci; 20.Nigel Reo-Coker, 24.Carlyle Mitchell, 16.Johnny Leverón, 22.Christian Dean; 31.Russell Teibert, 36.Bryce Alderson; 38.Kianz Froese^ (7.Sebastian Fernandez 77’), 29.Nicolás Mezquida, 32.Marco Bustos^ (17.Omar Salgado 64’); 19.Erik Hurtado (23.Kekuta Manneh 77’)
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 30.Jordan Haynes^, 37.Mitch Piraux^, 41.Jackson Farmer^
^WFC Residency player