Canada Soccer

Toronto FC, Whitecaps FC draw in opening leg

Posted on 18 May 2011 in Canadian Championship

Toronto FC moved a step closer to its third straight Nutrilite Canadian Championship by salvaging a 1-1 away draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC Wednesday in the opening match of the final series.

Whitecaps FC striker Eric Hassli and TFC attacker Maicon Santos exchanged second-half goals, but Santos' away goal gives TFC the advantage heading back to Toronto for the second leg May 25 at BMO Field.

Vancouver now need to score at least one goal at BMO Field on 25 May to win the tie and have the opportunity to represent Canada in the 2011-2012 CONCACAF Champions League.

Following today's CONCACAF Champions League draw, the Canadian champion will face Nicaraguan champion, Real Esteli or Walter Fereti, in a Preliminary Round series in July.

Toronto reached the final after beating FC Edmonton of the North American Soccer League, 4-0, on aggregate.

Meanwhile, Whitecaps FC had a tougher time needing extra time in the second leg to outlast the NASL's Impact de Montréal 2-1.

Hassli, who hit the goalpost on an earlier shot, appeared to move Vancouver closer to its goal when he gave them the lead in the 64th minute before a crowd of 15,474 at Empire Field.

The goal was the first TFC had allowed in six-straight NCC matches dating back to last year.

But just nine minutes later Santos scored against the run of play with a nifty flick of a Nick Soolsma cross that caromed off the inside of thefar goalpost.

Despite dominating play the rest of the second half and out-chancing TFC by a wide margin, Whitecaps FC failed to convert their opportunities.

Vancouver is the only team yet to win the NCC in the first three seasons, finishing second in both 2009 and 2010, despite going unbeaten in 2010 and losing just one match in 2009.

Vancouver started strongly, but Toronto matched their play resulting in a balanced share of possession in the first half.

Play opened up in the second half with Whitecaps FC applying pressure led by the strong play of their Brasilian attacker Camilo. Camilo also figured in a controversial penalty decision that was not awarded when he appeared to be taken downing the box by Canadian international defender Adrian Cann. Despite the appeals from the home supporters, referee Silviu Petrescu did not signal for a penalty.

A 12-minute stretch followed in which the Whitecaps missed a number of opportunities to take a one-nil lead.

Whitecaps FC were finally rewarded when Hassli struck from long range. Goalkeeper Jay Nolly threw the ball up field to Chiumiento, who drove forward and found Hassli on the right side. The Swiss Designated Player then turned inside and sent a beautiful curving left-footed strike inside the goal post by Swiss counterpart Stefan Frei.

Toronto sat back to preserve the draw after Santos' equalizer, but Vancouver nearly got the game winner when Chiumiento fed Omar Salgado combined to produce yet another opportunity for the home side.

The 2011 Nutrilite Canadian Championship featured four teams for the first time in the tournament's four-year history resulting in a two-leg two semi-final series followed by a two-leg championship final replacing a round-robin system.

The second leg will take place 25 May at BMO Field in Toronto (20.00 ET / 17.00 PT) and will be broadcast live in high definition on Rogers Sportsnet. Fans can also watch the match live on Sportsnet.ca or follow in-game updates via twitter.com/CanadaSoccerEN.

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