A second-half goal from Dutchman Nick Soolsma — the first of his MLS career — sent the locals home happy as Toronto FC took a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps away from BMO field on Wednesday night.
In a game that was mostly a back-and-forth defensive struggle, Soolsma had the single moment of offensive spark, which proved enough to get the Reds the full three points.
After having won a second ball just outside the Vancouver area in the 54th minute, Soolsma dribbled into the area, taking on backpedaling defender Greg Janicki. Soolsma cut inside and then back out, drawing Janicki into a challenge on the edge of the area. Referee Mark Geiger didn't hesitate, blowing his whistle and pointing to the spot.
The Dutchman stepped up and converted with no trouble to Whitecaps 'keeper Jay Nolly's left, but Geiger whistled Soolsma's teammate Joao Plata for box encroachment and the kick had to be retaken. Soolsma stepped up again and this time went to Nolly's right, burying the chance and giving Toronto their first regular-season win since May 7.
Neither team had shown much offensive initiative in the first 45 minutes, as both sides rested a host of starters ahead of Saturday's Nutrilite Canadian Championship final second leg. There were few chances to be found, and generally dislocated play from both teams.
The second half started off much the same, though Vancouver did bring on Designated Player striker Eric Hassli at halftime.
After Soolsma's penalty broke the deadlock, both sides showed a bit more endeavor going forward. Hassli wasn't able to carve out many chances for himself, but his insertion into the game did provide a bit more space and a running-mate for Vancouver's Omar Salgado, who'd spent the first 45 minutes as a lone frontrunner.
It was Salgado who found the Whitecaps' best chance to equalize, taking a pass from Brazilian winger Camilo on the edge of the box, turning and firing just wide of Reds' keeper Stefan Frei's left post in the 60th minute. It was a neat turn-and-shoot from the number one overall pick, but "firing wide" was the theme of the night for the Vancouver attackers.
While TFC were mostly protecting their lead, conceding nearly 65 percent of possession to the 'Caps, they were periodically able to launch counterattacks mostly through the feet of Plata and fellow winger Javier Martina. Their best chance to double the lead came in the 71st minute when Plata stripped Camilo and played it quickly to Mikael Yourassowsky. The midfielder then picked out Martina, who cut into the box and sent in a low, hard drive that Nolly did well to push around the post.
With the win, Toronto (3-7-9) leapfrog three teams into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference on 18 points. Vancouver (2-8-8) remain last in the West on 14 points.
The two teams meet again on Saturday at 12:30 pm ET in the NCC final second leg.
TOR -- Nick Soolsma 1 (penalty kick) 54
VAN -- Michael Boxall (caution; Tactical Foul) 27
TOR -- Joao Plata (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 89
Vancouver Whitecaps -- Jay Nolly, Wes Knight, Greg Janicki, Michael Boxall, Blake Wagner, Peter Vagenas, Jeb Brovsky (Eric Hassli 46), Gershon Koffie, Shea Salinas (Nizar Khalfan 77), Omar Salgado, Russell Teibert (Camilo 58).
Substitutes Not Used: Bilal Duckett, Terry Dunfield, Jonathan Leathers, Joe Cannon.
Toronto FC -- Stefan Frei, Dan Gargan, Richard Eckersley, Ty Harden, Danleigh Borman, Gianluca Zavarise (Matt Stinson 73), Nathan Sturgis, Mikael Yourassowsky, Nick Soolsma, Javier Martina (Ashtone Morgan 87), Joao Plata (Demitrius Omphroy 89).
Substitutes Not Used: Oscar Cordon, Julian de Guzman, Doneil Henry, Milos Kocic.
Referee: Mark Geiger
Referee's Assistants: Steven Taylor; Anthony Vasoli
4th Official: Alex Prus
Time of Game: 1:53
Weather: Clear and 73 degrees