TORONTO — Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter wasn’t about to worry about what team was in front of his Reds on Wednesday night; he just wanted a win.
“I’m the type of guy that doesn’t care what the competition is,” Winter said, “I just want to win — it doesn’t matter if it’s in MLS or against a NASL team.”
The coach got his wish, as TFC edged past NASL expansion side FC Edmonton 1-0 at BMO Field on a 21st-minute goal from Alan Gordon. The goal gave Toronto a 4-0 win on aggregate and advanced the club to the final of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, where the Reds will play Vancouver.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Despite the narrow win over the lower league side, Winter was satisfied.
“We were the better team," he said. "It was the same game as last week. We had a lot of chances. We only scored one goal, but it was a good result.”
Ahead 3-0 going into the match, TFC opted to send out a mixed lineup, with several younger players getting a chance to get some minutes and prove their worth.
One of the players to get a run out was forward Joao Plata, who sparked the Toronto offense with his speed and creativity. Although he has seen some action in MLS, the two NCC games against Edmonton have given him a stage to shine.
Last week, Plata played a role in all three of Toronto’s goals. On Wednesday, he dribbled in from the left flank and chipped a pass over the defense to an unmarked Gordon, who finished for the win.
"It was a tough match, but I think the group is starting to come along," Plata told Toronto FC's website after the match. "That important for all of us and especially for me — that the coach is giving me minutes on the pitch. ... I hope he gives me another chance to play on Saturday [vs. Houston] and to do just as well as I did tonight."
WATCH: Plata sets up Gordon's goal
Another player to see some invaluable minutes was Ohio State grad Matt Gold, who came on in the second half for the TFC to reinforce the midfield.
“[Playing in NCC games is] good for us [younger] guys,” Gold said. “We are waiting in the wings and games like tonight’s offer us an opportunity to impress.”
Gold says that you can’t compare playing in training with the real game experience — even if that game is against a lower-level side.
“It’s just not the same to train,” he said. “You need to be out there competing.”
And with the win, there will be at least two more games in this competition to give younger players an opportunity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Gold said that the team has a preference for who they want to play in that final.
“It would be great to get another chance at Vancouver to turn that [MLS season-opening game] result around,” he said.
He'll get his chance in two weeks' time.