The Vancouver Whitecaps are in the driver’s seat.
The Major League Soccer side left Commonwealth Stadium with a 2-0 aggregate advantage over FC Edmonton after the first leg of their Canadian Championship semifinal on Wednesday through goals from Eric Hassli and Atiba Harris.
Hassli’s 18th-minute effort was his first goal in 18 matches, as he slid a low effort past goalkeeper David Monsalve. Omar Salgado made the play by beating fullback Paul Hamilton down the left side before cutting the ball back for the big Frenchman to fire home.
The Whitecaps doubled their lead in the 41st minute, and once again Salgado was the catalyst. Hassli sent the Texan into a good position in the box, and Salgado beat his marker before hitting a fine chip over Monsalve’s head. The ball bounced off the post, but Harris was there to control before tapping home for the 2-0 goal.
Vancouver started strongly, dominating the early proceedings with 60 percent possession in the first half. It didn’t take long for the visitors to put the scare into the Edmonton defensive unit, as Davide Chiumiento’s sixth-minute free kick rattled off the crossbar before going out of bounds after Monsalve appeared to misjudge the flight of the ball.
Three minutes later, several Edmonton players appealed for a penalty as a ball appeared to strike Alain Rochat’s outstretched arm, but referee Carol Anne Chenard wasn’t interested.
In the second half, Ilja van Leerdam fired a swerving effort from outside the area, but goalkeeper Brad Knighton got down well to push the ball to his right for a corner kick.
Chiumiento nearly tripled the lead for Vancouver in the 80th minute as he beat Jonathan Jo Augustin with ease on the left side of the area before firing a shot at the near post, but Monsalve reacted well to parry away.
Five minutes later, John Thorrington put Long Tan through on goal with a well-weighted pass, but Monsalve once again parried away, meaning the match ended 2-0.
Both teams play in their respective leagues this weekend before meeting for the second leg of this tie at BC Place on May 9. Vancouver host the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, while FC Edmonton take on Martin Rennie’s former team, the Carolina RailHawks, on Sunday at Commonwealth Stadium.