TORONTO — An experimental Toronto FC squad ran a soggy victory lap in honor of their Nutrilite Canadian Championship victory after fighting to a scoreless tie with short-handed Vancouver on Wednesday.
The celebration at BMO Field wasn’t a spontaneous one and was already predetermined for Toronto, who claimed their second straight title after the Whitecaps' Voyageurs Cup hopes ran aground in Montreal with a 1-1 tie last week.
Toronto celebrated with their fans for several minutes following the match after Canadian international midfielder and tournament scoring leader Dwayne De Rosario accepted the Voyageurs Cup trophy.
"It was a great feeling to be able to celebrate this year's win with our fans," de Rosario said. "Our supporters have been following us on the road throughout the tournament in Vancouver and Montreal, and it was nice to finally celebrate with them at home."
TFC head coach Preki’s starting XI for this Wednesday’s match saw just three players from last Saturday’s win against the San Jose.
Two academy prospects, defender Doneil Henry and striker Allando Matheson, started the match while third-string goalkeeper Milos Kocic and 2010 draftee Nane Joseph also saw action.
Nicholas Lindsay, who also plays for the Canadian Soccer League’s development squad, got some valuable first-team experience entering the match at halftime for Reds’ Canadian international midfielder Julian de Guzman.
"I think [the reserves] did exceptionally well," de Rosario said."They were asked to fill into some big shoes and they came in and did the job for us tonight. It's good to see that composure and confidence with our younger players and know that the club has created the opportunity for them to play in a game at this level. The more we can do that, the better it bodes for the future with this club."
Several hours of heavy rain in Southern Ontario ahead of Wednesday’s game made the natural turf's playing surface slippery with several players losing their footing.
And after just three minutes into the match, Nane was forced to leave the game with a dislocated right-shoulder after falling awkwardly on a Vancouver rush by midfielder Philippe Davies.
The slick conditions appeared to contribute to the 32nd minute red card ejection of Vancouver striker Marcus Haber, too.
Haber slid awkwardly into Henry with a knee-high studs-up challenge, giving referee Geoff Gamble no choice but to reach into his pocket and deliver marching orders.
But a ten-man Vancouver almost opened the scoring with the best chance of the opening half when a long-distance effort by Philippe Davies forced Kocic to make a full-stretch finger tips save in the 45th minute.
Lindsay had his own chance to break the scoreless deadlock for Toronto in the 53rd minute when he intercepted a deflected clearance by Vancouver midfielder Zurab Tsiskaridze deep in the penalty area but blasted his shot into the side netting.
Preki inserted De Rosario into the match in the 66th minute replacing Matheson, leading to several long possession spells for Toronto as the visitors road legs appeared to grow heavy in the wet conditions.
De Rosario was named tournament MVP for his golden boot-winning pair of goals and outstanding play throughout the tournament.
Even with De Rosario’s presence, Vancouver’s back four of Wes Knight, Nelson Akwari, Luca Bellisomo and Zurab Tsiskaridze continued to frustrate Toronto’s attack while goalkeeper Jay Nolly was adept at mopping up any through balls and crosses that came his way.
Vancouver had another chance to win the game in the 67th minute, but striker Cornelius Stewart’s header deflected out of bounds after skidding across the top of the crossbar.
With the NCC 2010 title under their belt, Toronto now move on to face Motagua of Honduras in a two-leg CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round series.
The first leg of the continental tournament is set to kick off around July 27-29, with the second leg one week later.