Canadian Championship final nicely poised after first-leg draw

The first-leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final ended in a draw as Toronto FC drew 1-1 with the Montreal Impact at BMO Field. The second-leg in Montreal takes place next Wednesday with the winner entering the CONCACAF Champions League for the 2014/15 season. Here are our key takeaways from last night’s game:

 

1. Doneil Henry is a beast.

The 21-year-old Canadian defender is always solid at the back, and last night showed how dangerous he can be from set-pieces at the other end, as he powered home a header for the opening goal of the game. Henry certainly has a bright future ahead of him and is a key asset in the Reds side.

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2. Toronto need to field their strongest side.

Jermain Defoe, Mark Bloom and Kyle Bekker all sat on the bench, with only Bekker seeing any action at all. They need to play Defoe next week to have a chance of securing the win, especially with Gilberto still struggling for a goal. Ryan Nelsen may have had one eye on the weekend’s game with Columbus Crew in the Trillium Cup match but he must use his stars if they want to lift the trophy.

 

3. Justin Mapp has got bags of ability.

The American winger has been the key man for the Impact for much of the season, and last night scored a wonderful solo goal to tie up the game in the second-half. The 29-year-old ran with the ball towards the Toronto defence before curling a well-directed shot into the far corner. Montreal will need Mapp to perform as he did if they are to have any chance of reviving their season in MLS.

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4. There will be plenty of chances in another entertaining game next week.

The final will be decided next week, and promises to be a very entertaining affair as both sides will be desperate to get the win. There were numerous chances last night and penalty shouts for either side, and the draw shapes the tie very nicely. There were nineteen shots between the two sides last night, and expect the same sort of match next Wednesday.

 

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Toronto need penalties to see off resolute Whitecaps

Toronto FC advanced to the Amway Canadian Championship final after beating the Vancouver Whitecaps 5-3 in a penalty shootout at BC Place last night.

The pair couldn’t be separated, with the aggregate score 3-3 after 210 minutes of action over the two legs, and penalties were needed to send Toronto through to face the Montreal Impact in the final.

Jermain Defoe didn’t feature as he watched on from the bench, as Luke Moore started his first game for the club alongside Brazilian striker Gilberto.

Vancouver trailed 2-1 from the first-leg, and their task got a lot more difficult inside the opening five minutes, as Toronto took an early lead through Doneil Henry.

Henry looked to be offside as he tapped in, following a Michael Bradley free-kick that was headed onto the bar by Whitecaps defender Nick Hagglund.

The early setback meant Vancouver had to attack Toronto, and they did just that, registering 25 shots during the game.

They got the equaliser just before halftime, as Erik Hurtado’s strike levelled it up following a great chip over the defence by Chilean midfielder Pedro Morales.

The Whitecaps pressed for the second goal that would tie the aggregate score and Kekuta Manneh had a good chance to do so, but for Reds goalkeeper Joe Bendik, who charged down the young Gambian.

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(Photo: Joe Bendik made some vital saves to keep Toronto in the game)

Vancouver eventually got the goal they desperately searched for, as Henry brought down Hurtado in the box to allow Morales to score from the penalty spot.

Toronto had the best chances to win the match in extra-time but neither side could get that elusive goal and penalties were needed to decide the tie.

The Reds scored all five of their penalties to advance, with Kekuta Manneh the unlucky Whitecap to miss, as Joe Bendik saved another one of his efforts.

Toronto will face Montreal in the two-legged final starting in two weeks as they aim to get their hands on their fifth Canadian Championship title against the current holders.

The Impact edged past FC Edmonton in the final seconds of the other semi-final, winning 4-2 on the night, with the winner coming from a controversial penalty in the 97th minute to send the MLS club through 5-4 on aggregate.

Defoe “devastated” at England snub but it’s a boost for Toronto FC

By Louis East

Jermain Defoe says he is “devastated” not to have made England’s 23-man squad for the World Cup, but his absence strengthens Toronto FC’s chances this season.

England manager, Roy Hodgson, named his squad for the World Cup on Monday, but Defoe only made the standby list, and he will not travel to Brazil, barring an injury to a striker in the squad.

The 31-year-old striker played for England at the 2010 World Cup and scored one goal for the Three Lions at the tournament, but he has been overlooked this time by Hodgson.

Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Rickie Lambert have been named as the England striker’s, with Jermain Defoe and Andy Carroll having to settle for a place on the standby list.

Defoe made the move away from English football earlier this year to join Toronto, and has been in fine form, scoring four goals in five appearances for The Reds, but the move to MLS may be the reason behind his absence.

“You can’t expect anything but I did feel like I had a good chance of going because I’ve been in most of the squads, if not all the squads, so to miss out, I don’t know, I just feel devastated to be honest,” Defoe said speaking to BBC Radio.

He added that he did not think joining Toronto was a mistake, and wished the England team the best of luck for the tournament.

Toronto will keep hold of Defoe, unless he is called up in place of an injured striker, and Ryan Nelsen’s team will be boosted by news.

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(Photo: Jermain Defoe will remain with Toronto, a boost for The Reds)

Speaking ahead of their Amway Canadian Championship second-leg match against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday, Nelsen said he was surprised that the former Tottenham striker was overlooked.

“I was a bit surprised and disappointed for Jermain because he arguably deserves it. It’s a shame for him, but he’s on the standby (squad) and you never know.”

Defoe will likely feature for The Reds on Wednesday night, as will Michael Bradley and Julio Cesar, before the duo depart for World Cup camps with the USMNT and Brazil respectively.

Toronto can score the goals, but they need to shore up their defence to achieve success

By Simon Pyne

The second-leg of the Amway Canadian Championship takes place this Wednesday between Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC, and gives the Reds a great opportunity to reach the final and up their current form.

Toronto head into Wednesday’s game with a slender one-goal advantage from the first leg of the tie, after a 2-1 win, and will be looking to improve on their recent performances to give a boost to their loyal supporters.

It will also give new signing Jermain Defoe another chance to show why Toronto made such a bold acquisition.

The Reds fans will be hoping the star duo of Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley continues to shine, to enable their progression to a place in the final.

Defoe has continued playing in the vein he is remembered for in Britain. He is the 14th highest all time goalscorer in the EPL with 124 goals and has also scored 19 goals for the English National side.

He is known for forming successful partnerships with attacking teammates and it appears him and Bradley are already starting to gel.

His current form will keep him in the limelight though, and Reds fans should be hoping Defoe doesn’t get the call from the England Manager, Roy Hodgson, to join the World Cup squad, as Toronto will need his goals in the coming weeks.

Coach Ryan Nelsen of course knew all about Defoe, from his own time as a player at Tottenham Hotspur where he watched the prolific striker hit the back of the net regularly.

Toronto showed their interest in October 2013 and following negotiations, and a couple of phone calls from Canadian rapper Drake, the deal was completed in January this year.

This was a shrewd buy for Toronto and providing JD stays injury free it will pay dividends in the coming seasons.

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(Photo: Jermain Defoe can score goals, but Toronto need to improve defensively)

The new signing of Luke Moore shows further intent of their attacking intentions but scoring one more goal than your opponent is a dangerous tactic and the Reds need to shut up shop in defence and make those goals count.

It’s worth noting that the deal to acquire Luke Moore involved Toronto trading a central defender, in Gale Agbossoumonde to the Colorado Rapids, so the emphasis is clearly on attack.

In their first three games they only let one goal in, but then followed this up by letting five hit the back of the net in their last three games.

The late goal by the Whitecaps at BMO Field in the first leg may yet come back to haunt them in this competition.

Although a place in the final is going to be a confidence boost for The Reds, it is their MLS form they need to turn around.

After a flying start to the season they have now suffered three losses in a row, so the talent within the team must endeavour to turn this form on its head.

They have three to four games in hand over the teams above them and must ensure they make those count, even with the loss of key players to the World Cup.

If they can achieve that turnaround there should be no reason why they can’t then kick on and get into a solid playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Whitecaps may just be the first fly in the ointment however. They are unbeaten in their last four MLS games and will relish the chance of beating Toronto to the final, and gain bragging rights over their rivals.

The winner of the tie will have a chance of silverware and the entry into the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.

The Reds then have league games against NY Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City, two teams who have been scoring for fun and both will attack the Reds defence at every opportunity.

Ryan Nelsen’s side need to be strong and show they are up for the challenge ahead and prove they can achieve success and honours.

One honour they have already acquired is unfortunately the ubiquitous one of having the most expensive tickets in the Eastern Conference.

There is no doubt Toronto have the talent on the pitch, they now just need to prove to their loyal fans they are worth that extra money.

Toronto FC take the advantage against a spirited Vancouver side

By Louis East

Toronto FC relied on the quality of their designated players to secure a first-leg win against a young Vancouver Whitecaps side in the Amway Canadian Championship semi-final.

Goals from Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley helped Toronto to a 2-1 victory against a young, and spirited Whitecaps side, with manager Carl Robinson fielding a team with an average age of just 21.6 at BMO Field on Wednesday night.

With no game this weekend, Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen fielded a strong side in the first-leg of the Canadian Championship semi-final as he looked to build a convincing lead in the tie.

But that was not the case, as Vancouver battled throughout and have a real chance of progressing to the final in next week’s second-leg.

Toronto looked dangerous in the first-half as Vancouver struggled to contain the attacking threats of Defoe and Issey Nakajima-Farran, who were giving the young Whitecaps defence plenty to deal with.

They opened the scoring in the 27th minute, as Gilberto sent Defoe through on goal with the Englishman making no mistake with his finish, sliding under the young Marco Carducci in the Vancouver goal.

At just 17, Carducci is the second-youngest goalkeeper to have played for Vancouver in their 40-year history but he couldn’t prevent Defoe from scoring his fourth goal for Toronto in just five appearances.

Gilberto will be boosted by the assist, but the Brazilian is still looking for his first goal since joining Toronto and needs to start taking his chances.

The Whitecaps improved in the second-half and grew increasingly confident as the game went on, but Joe Bendik was in fine form in the Toronto goal, stopping shots from Omar Salgado and the impressive Russell Teibert.

Toronto eventually got the second goal they had been looking for in the 89th minute, as Michael Bradley ran from his own box to slot the ball past Carducci, after playing a neat one-two with Jermain Defoe.

The tie looked to be edging away from Vancouver, who had worked so hard, but substitute Kekuta Manneh made sure the Whitecaps are still in the tie.

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(All to play for in next Wednesday’s second-leg match at BC Place)

The exciting 19-year-old volleyed in from inside the box in stoppage time, to make it 2-1 on the night, giving Vancouver real hope of making the final in next Wednesday’s second-leg at BC Place.

The winner will play in a two-legged final for the Voyageurs Cup against FC Edmonton or Montreal Impact.

FC Edmonton came from behind and scored a late winner to stun holders, Montreal, in the first-leg last night, winning 2-1 but Montreal will be confident of progressing when they host Edmonton in the second-leg next week.