Toronto FC came so painfully close to winning the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship finals in Vancouver on Wednesday.
But they came away with a 1-1 draw because of Eric Hassli’s stunning volley in stoppage time. Even Reds head coach and technical director Aron Winter had to admire it despite the pain it inflicted.
HIGHLIGHTS: Vancouver 1, Toronto 1
“The goal in extra time, there’s nothing you can do,” Winter told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the game.
He did feel, however, that his team was better than Vancouver throughout the game. And he is encouraged despite the work that must still be done. On Wednesday, TFC played a more pleasing style of football than the defensive stance they took in Montreal in the first leg of the ACC semifinals.
And before Hassli’s magic, the Reds appeared to have the win on Ryan Johnson’s 66th-minute goal on a header set up by an accurate pass from Julian de Guzman. But they were unable to find that second goal, despite chances, to finish off the game and perhaps give themselves a solid grip on the Voyageurs Cup.
Winter takes solace from the fact that the team is gaining some confidence, having had two draws and a win in the ACC. Now they have that away goal in the bank going back to BMO Field for the second leg next week.
And they may have reinforcements on the way. Toronto were without defender Richard Eckersley on Wednesday due to the red card he picked up in last week’s 2-0 semi second-leg win over Montreal. Team captain Torsten Frings also was missing Wednesday because of a shoulder injury.
Danny Koevermans, who has been out with a groin injury, was used as a substitute against Vancouver.
“The confidence is growing,” Winter said. “We’re playing better. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting injured players back and getting a full roster, but now we must look to Saturday.”
Saturday brings important business, a game against D.C. United at RFK Stadium as Toronto still look for their first league points. When the Reds lost 2-0 to D.C. on May 9, they fell to 0-8-0, the worst start in league history.
They would like to take care of that before trying to complete their fourth consecutive Canadian Championship in a row to put them back into the CONCACAF Champions League.