Toronto FC survived a 2-1 loss in regulation time in the second leg of the Canadian Championship but managed to advance anyway, beating the Vancouver Whitecaps 5-3 in a penalty shootout to move on to the finals of the tournament.
For head coach Ryan Nelsen, the dramatics at the end of the game don’t overshadow the benefits of pulling out the result away from home.
“It’s a game we really wanted to win and no matter how we got through, we got through,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com. “In extra time, we had control of it and when you play these games and they go to extra time, it can be a real positive when you come out with a win. Guys have played together now, they will harden up and any 90 minutes they experience in the future will be a walk in the park compared to this.”
The 2-1 finish to the second leg, meant a 3-3 aggregate scoreline after 210 minutes, and subsequent penalties. Toronto FC were perfect, slotting home all five with Issey Nakajima-Farran getting the capper.
Nelsen says he was prepared for the outcome that unfolded at BC Place.
“Yup, we certainly took penalties [in practice],” Nelsen said. “Everybody likes a penalty in practice, it’s when you have to do it in front of 20,000 people! The guys showed how clinical it was; our five most experienced guys stood up and took them and they nailed it.”
Toronto earned the advantage courtesy of the outstretched gloves of goalkeeper Joe Bendik, who saved the second Vancouver penalty after making save after save in open play.
“Joe was very good,” Nelsen said, also telling reporters in Vancouver he wouldn’t be surprised if Bendik got a call up with the United States national team following the World Cup, either. “You’ve got to be when you’re playing away from home, you want your goalkeeper to come up big, and he came up big a couple of times.”
Nelsen was pleased with the way his team grinded out the result but was also left impressed with the Whitecaps, attributing the performance of Carl Robinson’s young side with the fact that “they’ve been together for a while.”
“Ironically, when they started bringing on their first team, it actually probably opened it up and became easier for us,” Nelsen said.
Now, TFC take on the Montreal Impact in the two-leg final, but despite Montreal’s patchy form, Nelsen won’t be taking their neighbors to the east lightly.
“They’re a very good team, they’re very well coached and they’re just going through a bad patch at the moment,” Nelsen said. “Sometimes, a win like they got tonight can change the tide. We’ll have to be right on our game.”