Maybe Money Can Buy Championships: TFC 2, WFC 1

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Much of hand-wringing among Vancouver Whitecaps fans this afternoon centered around two basic propositions: that the young guns under coach Carl Robinson's wing might just manage an epic standoff versus Toronto FC in the first leg of the Canadian Championship, or that the blue-and-white would be torn to shreds by a vastly superior eastern side. Turns out that just about everyone walks away wrong...

The scoresheet from BMO Field will read 2-1 in TFC's favour, but in all honesty the result could have or should have (depending on which colours you support) been 5-1 or more for the Reds.

And even then, there'd be an argument to be made that Vancouver had acquitted themselves well. As Province beat writer Marc Weber tweeted prior to the match:


The difference in bankroll was staggering - and the play on the pitch pretty much reflected it as Robinson fielded a starting XI heavy on young Canadiana, but light on professional experience.

Given that the Caps are in the midst of four matches within a ten-day span, Robinson undertook an exercise in pragmatics this evening - resting his starters for the match in Columbus this weekend, while also conducting an assessment of the depth within the Whitecaps organization. Toronto, as luck would have it, are on a bye week in their MLS schedule.

Predictably, the Whitecaps, playing in Vancouver's standard 4-2-3-1, came out rather tight and tentative. They found themselves on the back heel almost immediately, and were fortunate not to find themselves down a goal within the first five minutes. Toronto's Steve Caldwell found himself on the end of TFC corner, and headed on goal only to have Nigel Reo-Coker attempt to head the ball wide. Reo-C didn't get enough on it to push the ball wide, but luckily Marco Bustos was butted up against the far post and manged a clearing header before the ball could cross the goal line.

Some of the Whitecaps youngsters looked to be struggling to get enough weight on their passes, while their timing and accuracy also suffered. Perhaps not surprisingly Reo-Coker failed to open brightly, as he needed the first half hour to shake off all the rust.

Some 20 minutes into the match, Toronto had already mustered four attempts on goal, while the Whitecaps were still struggling to string together much of anything higher up the pitch than midfield. Although Toronto were pressing the issue more effectively, it was the Caps with the early edge in possession - though they couldn't manage to threaten with it. The early stages had all the makings of a standoff.

Finally at 28' the Reds capitalized on a coverage gaffe courtesy of Jermain Defoe. The Caps were playing a high line, and when both Johnny Leveron and Carlyle Mitchell closed down hard on Gilberto 35 yards out, Defoe found himself in a channel wide enough for the Exxon Valdez. Reo-Coker, who was five yards outside Defoe, realized he wasn't going to make a play and instead stood rooted waving an arm for an offside call that never came. Defoe easily slotted under Marco Carducci to open the scoring.

Just four minutes later, Defoe worked his way in for another opportunity, only to be denied by the 17-year-old Carducci. Kyle Bekker and Alvaro Rey had additional chances to put Toronto further ahead, but finishing let them down.

Vancouver's best opportunity of the half came late after Russell Teibert worked a nice give and go sequence with Bustos and ended up in alone on Joe Bendik at close quarters. Bendik made the save, but Bustos got on the rebound only to have his shot cleared off the line by Doneil Henry.

Halftime Stats:

Attempts:  TFC 9 - WFC 3
Shots on:  TFC 5 - WFC 2
Possess:  TFC 41% - WFC 59%

Just five minutes into the second half Carlyle Mitchell came in late and heavy on Issey Nakajima-Farran - Toronto's most dangerous man of the night - sweeping his legs out from under him. If there's such thing as a dark yellow caution, Mitchell got it. A handful of minutes later, it was Reo-Coker going into the books, also for a foul against Issey. From there the match took on a slightly chippy tone - the Reds frustrated not to be tearing holes in the net, and the Caps frustrated to be doing much of anything.

Twenty minutes into the second half, Robinson brought on Omar Salgado for Bustos.

At 75', with Vancouver on a rare counter attack, Salgado earned himself a double opportunity. First, a whirling left footed smash from the top of the box - right at Bendik, and then moments later his chipped curler from a sharp angle forced Bendik into alertly tipping the ball over the crossbar.

Perhaps sensing that the Caps were beginning to push back, Robinson brought on Kekutah Manneh (Hurtado) and Sebastian Fernandez (Froese). Toronto coach Ryan Nelsen countered with De Rosario (Issey) soon thereafter.

Vancouver pushed for the equalizer in the dying minutes, and as so often happens in such cases, the opposition took advantage. At 89' Defoe slipped a ball in behind Johnny Leveron, and Michael Bradley angled onto it - hitting a low cross-grain effort past Carducci into the far corner. 2-0 Toronto.

To their credit, the Caps didn't wilt and in time added (92') Kekutah Manneh latched onto a failed clearance and pounded his laces into the ball, sending it past a hapless and helpless Bendik.

The Caps now travel to Columbus for this weekend's date with the Crew, and then return to Vancouver for the second leg of their series with TFC on Wednesday.

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