TORONTO – Toronto FC were able to hold on for a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps in their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal first leg on Wednesday night, but the circumstances of the victory left many of the Reds players wanting more.
Up by two after a late Michael Bradley goal and a minute away from securing an all-important home shutout in the two-legged aggregate series, TFC conceded deep into stoppage time when Kekuta Manneh smashed home a loose ball, taking a good chunk of the shine off the team's win.
“We couldn’t get the second goal during the game to really kick on,” TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen told reporters. “The longer that game went, Vancouver kept their confidence. It left a bit of a sour taste in our mouth, to tell you the truth, to concede that one.”
“These games are pretty awkward, by the way,” Nelsen added. “I’ve played in lots of them in my time, when you play against a young team that wants to prove themselves to their coach. Boy, they were up for it. It was one of those games where, being on the back end of one, we could have easily lost.”
Toronto’s two goals came courtesy of their two star players, Jermain Defoe and Bradley, with the former scoring in the first half and the latter adding to Toronto’s goal tally in the 89th minute of play. It seemed a cherry on top of a strong performance but proved to be the game-winner after Vancouver found one of their own.
TFC keeper Joe Bendik (above, center) said that the last 30 minutes of the game seemed to be the “Defoe and Bradley show,” and Bradley credited the English forward with a great assist to give Toronto their second goal.
“I was able to step onto a ball in midfield and shoved it to Jermain and kept moving,” Bradley said. “He did really well to kind of take a touch inside and draw the defenders a bit, then he slipped a perfect ball to me.”
Though Bradley was also disappointed in conceding the late away goal he saw plenty of positives, highlighting the effect the win could have on a side that's lost its last three league games.
“I don’t think it was our best or sharpest night by any means,” Bradley said. “Still, the way we handled the game, the way we took care of things up until that point had been quite good. To give away that goal is disappointing but at this point, there’s no use crying over spilled milk.”
“It does us no good to dwell on it. The advantage is still in our court and now we go into Vancouver [on May 14] ready to finish the job.”