TORONTO — Vancouver made it interesting, but Mikael Yourassowsky’s goal in the 61st minute completed Toronto FC’s rally in a 2-1 victory over the Whitecaps at BMO Field on Saturday that gave the Reds their third straight Nutrilite Canadian Championship title.
With the victory in the replayed second leg, the Reds won the aggregate-goals series 3-2 and booked a spot in the preliminary round of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Toronto finally took the upper hand in a thrilling, back-and-forth match half an hour from time when Joao Plata set up the winner with a cross from the left side that found Yourassowsky in the center of the box. The Belgian fired it home, putting a left-footed shot into the lower right corner for his first goal in a TFC uniform. And it was the biggest of the season so far for the Reds.
Vancouver looked on their way to lodging an upset and winning their first-ever Voyageurs Cup. Camilo Sanvezzo opened the scoring in the 21st minute with a stunning free kick that found the upper right corner, putting the Whitecaps in the driver’s seat with a 1-0 lead and a 2-1 aggregate advantage.
Fate then seemed to be smiling on the ‘Caps in the first half. In the 26th minute, Julian de Guzman's shot was pushed off the crossbar by Joe Cannon, and Vancouver's Michael Boxall cleared Javier Martina's rebound off the line.
In the 41st minute, the game's most controversial play went Vancouver's way. Toronto thought they had scored when Martina picked Cannon’s pocket and sent a slow shot toward an open goal. Defender Jay DeMerit, however, got his left foot on the ball on the goal line to clear it. Replays showed the ball crossed the line, but the goal was not awarded.
But the momentum went back Toronto’s way early in the second half. Plata was brought down in the area by Jonathan Leathers in the 48th minute and head official Dave Gantar pointed to the spot. The diminutive Ecuadorean saw his first attempt saved by Cannon, but the official ruled the veteran ‘keeper came off his line. Plata made no mistake with his second attempt, burying his penalty kick to the left side of Cannon’s net and evening up the match and series.
Toronto came on strong shortly after. De Guzman, back from a calf injury, capped an active return for his hometown team, and set up the eventual winner. In the 61st, his long lead pass found Plata on the left right, and the Ecuadorean's cross hit Yourassowsky for the definitive strike.
Vancouver made a frantic push in the final 15 minutes, and should have found the winner in the 82nd minute when Alain Rochat found an unmarked Eric Hassli on the right side of the area, but the French Designated Player one-timed his shot wide left. As the minutes ticked down, Stefan Frei was up to the task in the Toronto net and the Reds back line limited the Whitecaps’ chances.
Toronto now go on to face Real Estelí in a two-leg preliminary-round matchup; they’ll host the Nicaraguans at BMO Field on July 27 and then travel to Central America for the return leg on Aug. 2. The winners advance to the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League, where they’ll compete in Group C.
Saturday’s final second leg match was a replay of the May 25 game at BMO Field, which was abandoned after an hour due to severe thunder and lightning. Vancouver were leading 1-0, but NCC rules stipulate that the entire match had to be replayed.
VAN -- Camilo 21’
TOR -- Joao Plata 51’ (PK)
TOR -- Mikael Yourassowky (Joao Plata) 61’
VAN -- Eric Hassli (caution) 50’
TOR -- Javier Martina (caution) 56’
VAN -- Russell Teibert (caution) 72’
Toronto FC -- Stefan Frei, Danleigh Borman, Ty Harden (Tony Tchani 56’), Richard Eckersley, Dan Gargan, Nathan Sturgis, Julian de Guzman (Doneil Henry 87’), Mikael Yourassowsky, Joao Plata, Maicon Santos (Javier Martina 33’), Nick Soolsma
Subsitutes Not Used: Milos Kocic, Matthew Stinson, Alan Gordan, Gianluca Zavarise
Vancouver Whitecaps FC -- Joe Cannon, Michael Boxall, Alain Rochat, Jay DeMerit (Blake Wagner 62’), Terry Dunfield, Jeb Brovsky (Niza Khalfan 72’), Shea Salinas (Russell Teibert 45’), Jonathan Leathers, Gershon Koffie, Eric Hassli, Camilo
Substitues Not Used: Bilal Duckett, Omar Salgado, Jay Nolly, Pete Vagenas
Referee: Dave Gantar
Referee’s Assistants: Joe Fletcher, Daniel Belleau
4th Official: Geoff Gamble