Vancouver Whitecaps 1:1 Toronto FC. TFC get lucky.

 

I feel the above video describes Toronto FC's night in Vancouver perfectly. What appears to be a disaster that we somehow walk away from intact, with bystanders muttering 'you lucky bastard!'

To say TFC were lucky to come away from the first leg at Empire Field with a valuable away goal and a 1-1 tie would be a huge understatement.  The first half was fairly even, but whatever was said and done at half time really didn't get the job done, as within the first 3 minutes of the second half, in the space of 1:20, Vancouver came very very close three times. 

First up was an undeniable penalty, Adrian Cann looking horribly slow, and clearing fouling Camilo in the box, but the ref didn't give a penalty.  Less than 45 seconds later, Eric Hassli hit the post, and 35 seconds after that, including time to take a corner kick, Jay DeMerit headed a Davide Chiumiento cross across the goal line.  The header itself barely missed, and Camilo was just unable to jump high enough to get a head on it as it went across.  All that was before the 48th minute, and 5 minutes later, Camilo cut in from the right, beat Dan Gargan and Julian de Guzman and had a shot from 20 yards touched on to the bar by Frei. 

Things did settle down a bit after that, and if we discount an inadvertent handball in the box which might very harshly have been called a penalty, it took a further whole 7 minutes for Vancouver to get their next chance, Chiumiento working a nice one two and getting through some shoddy tackling to be through one on one against Frei, but he skied his shot over the bar.  Another chance came soon and this time Hassli scored.  After drifting over to the right wing to lose his marker, and with Dan Gargan not picking him up, he cut inside past De Guzman and hit a curling shot from about 25 yards out that Frei got his hand to but just couldn't keep out.  All that was in the first 18 minutes of the second half.  It was a great performance by the Whitecaps/an absolute shambles from TFC, and how it was only 1-0 at that point, the soccer gods only know. 

The first half had been nowhere near that bad for TFC, and was in fact an even 45 minutes.  Both teams looked comfortable in possession, and while Vancouver looked more likely to score, with Shea Salinas tormenting Dan Gargan on the Right Wing and Chiumiento and Hassli both looking sharp as well, TFC were definitely holding their own.  Their best chances came from Nick Soolsma who had a very good game on the Right Wing. 

Whereas Joao Plata was very quickly double teamed and effectively shut down on the Left Wing, Soolsma found plenty of room, partly because as I mentioned in my game preview, Chiumiento isn't exactly tenacious when it comes to backtracking and helping out his defence.  Soolsma had two very good runs and shots that forced good saves from Jay Nolly in the Whitecaps goal.  The worst part of the first half for TFC was two freak injuries, Jacob Peterson pulled up with what looked like a pulled muscle, and Tony Tchani also hurt himself, falling awkwardly after making a tackle and catching his studs in the fieldturf.  Both players were substituted, replaced by Matt Gold and Oscar Cordon, and to be fair to TFC, maybe that had something to do with the shocking start to the second.

In that second half, after Vancouver scored, TFC came back into it, Oscar Cordon forcing a routine save out of Nolly, Maicon Santos hitting a long range strike well wide and Adrian Cann getting an awkward shot off after a corner.  It was still a surprise though, and a hilariously cruel one at that when TFC equalised in the 73rd minute.  Gargan hit a great ball out to Soolsma in space on the right wing, he did fantastically to beat DeMerit who'd gone over to cover for his absent Left Back, and got a cross in that Santos, totally anonymous until then, did really well to clip past Nolly and just inside the far post. 

Almost immediately after scoring, Aron Winter made the move to take off Joao Plata for Ty Harden, and went with 5 at the back, which given the Whitecaps ability to score late goals at home was practically suicide.  The 'Caps immediately responded with a change of their own, now there was no Left Winger to worry about defensively, Chiumiento was switched over to the right side, where he looked very dangerous, putting in good cross after good cross.  After putting themselves so firmly on to the back foot, and inviting the pressure, it was a very nervy last 15 minutes for TFC, Frei having to make a very good save from Khalfan, and DeMerit coming very close with a header in injury time, after a cross that Frei came for and didn't come close to, which just looped wide.

Somehow, that's how it ended, multiple shots off the woodwork, good saves by Frei, a blatant penalty denied, pretty much everything aside from the injuries to Peterson and Tchani went Toronto's way, and they now have an away goal and a 1-1 tie to take back to Toronto for next week's second leg.   Bmo field has hardly been a fortress, so this is the furthest thing from a foregone conclusion, especially if the injuries to Tchani and Peterson are serious enough to rule them out.  Vancouver doesn't have a game this weekend, whereas Toronto has to travel to Colorado for a game on sunday, I'd hope to see as many regulars as possible rested for that game. 

Now it basically comes down to one game for all the marbles, TFC has a slight advantage, but if anyone's due some luck it's Vancouver, next Wednesday will be intense.

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