TORONTO – Toronto FC may still be without a point in league play, but they are once again the Canadian champions.
With both sides reduced to 10 men in the second half, Reggie Lambe’s late goal gave Toronto FC a 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday at BMO Field in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship finals in what proved to be an emotional, testy match.
Toronto went into the game needing only a goalless draw to win after a 1-1 draw in Vancouver gave them a slight advantage by virtue of the away-goals rule.
Vancouver, who are 5-3-3 in their second season in the league, were trying to end a string of bad luck in the Canadian Championship. Instead, Toronto's fourth straight victory in the competition will ease the pain of an 0-9-0 start in MLS play.
A couple of minutes before Lambe scored, Toronto appeared to have gone ahead through Nick Soolsma, but the play was ruled offside.
But Toronto finally scored in the 83rd minute after a nice bit of work from Lambe to keep the ball before he hammered home a right-footed shot from the just inside the area into the bottom left corner after taking a pass from Soolsma.
As Vancouver pressed in stoppage time, goalkeeper Joe Cannon was out of his goal in the attacking end, but failed to give Vancouver the lifeline they needed to send the match to extra time.
The match took an ugly turn when a skirmish broke out in the 56th minute near midfield. Each team received a red card as a result. Toronto’s Julian de Guzman was given a straight red card and Vancouver’s Sébastien Le Toux was ejected for his second yellow card of the game.
Toronto had just lost Eric Avila to injury when the altercation took place, forcing Aron Winter to bring Richard Eckersley on instead of Danny Koevermans, who was about to step onto the field.
When play resumed, Toronto kept the ball bottled up in the Vancouver half for large chunks of the game, making it difficult for the visitors to even get the chance they needed to get that all-important goal.
Toronto were also the more assertive team in the first half, using the long ball as Vancouver seemed to be waiting to strike on the counterattack. Toronto had most of the attempts on goal and the advantage in possession.
It nearly paid off when Joao Plata just headed a pass from Frings to the right of the post. Toronto also wanted a penalty when Plata was brought down in front of the goal but there was no call, while Eric Hassli was similarly denied a call in the closing stages of the second half.
By virtue of their championship, Toronto earned a spot in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League, and will hope to repeat their semifinal run from the previous edition.
Both teams will return to MLS action over the weekend, as Toronto play the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at BMO Field while Vancouver meet the Timbers in Portland.