The Voyageurs Cup was in the building at BMO Field tonight, but Toronto FC still has a lot of work to do if they want to keep it in the city permanently. Tonight's 1-0 victory in the first leg of the Canadian Championship final gives Toronto FC a slight advantage heading into Vancouver next week for the definitive match, but there is still plenty of work to do.
The match itself was a little bit "interesting", a word that Vancouver Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson aptly used to describe it in his post game. It dragged on at times, struggling to find a rhythm, but then would suddenly create moments of intensity.
It was the Whitecaps who dictated the opening half, looking to get an all-important away goal that never came. Toronto seemed to wake up after halftime and the majority of the second half was spent in the Whitecaps end of the pitch. The visitors tried desperately, and for the most part successfully, to limit the damage Toronto could inflict.
"Briefly, I thought we were terrible in the first half, and then much better in the second half," said Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney after the match. "Ironically we scored in the first half and didn't score in the second half."
The lone goal came from Sebastian Giovinco, courtesy of a massive deflection off a Whitecaps defender. Both club and player aren't complaining, however, both could certainly use the boost.
Giovinco, through a combination of injury and poor form, had not scored since May 14, coincidently also against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Toronto FC will need him to once again carry the team offensively through this extended goal drought.
"I'm happy because I like to score goals," Giovinco said matter of factly after the game. "I'm also happy with how it went tonight and I want to score more."
It's not for a lack of trying, Giovinco was buzzing around the field all match long taking shots every opportunity that he got. In fact, he continues to be maybe a little too trigger happy. The club had much better offensive success in the second half when he shared the wealth and used strike partner Mo Babouli more consistently.
The good news is that while the scoring has dried up Toronto FC has tightened up defensively. This was the club's third straight clean sheet, and for the most part, they gave Vancouver very few looks at goal. Those that they did were handled well by Clint Irwin, who continues to quietly be an important piece of the club's fabric.
"We've now had eight shutouts in 16 or 17 games, and three in the last four," said Vanney. "You can't do that unless you have a goalkeeper who can make the saves that need to be made along the way. He's done that all year."
One concern for the backline is the fact that Steven Beitashour had to be substituted off due to injury in the second half. Beitashour has played almost every minute of the season for Toronto at right back and the club has few other options. While Vanney doesn't think the injury is serious, he acknowledges that Beitashour will need to be rested at some point.
The team was happy with tonight's result, and the second half performance, as they should be. However, everyone on the team understands that this game only represented the job being half done, and it could have been done better.
Toronto FC really should be going into Vancouver with a lead bigger than one goal, and it could cost them against a team who are much better at home than on the road. The Whitecaps will likely be playing a full force lineup after resting a few key starters tonight, and Toronto will have to once again be solid defensively.
"We didn't concede the away goal, which is always important, and we've got the 1-0 up," said Vanney after the match. "So we go there and we defend like we've been defending. We make sure we played like we did in the second half, finish a chance and then it makes it an uphill battle for them."
They are still 90 minutes separated from lifting their fifth Canadian Championship, but this is the closest Toronto FC has been in several years. Now, all they have to do is finish what they started.