[NUTRILITE CANADA CHAMPIONSHIP] For the third straight year, Toronto FC will represent Canada in the Concacaf Champions League preliminary round. TFC beat Vancouver, 2-1, Saturday, to win the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, 3-2, on aggregate.
By resting some of his regulars for midweek league match with Toronto FC at BMO Field, Vancouver head coach Tom Soehn believed he’d give the ‘Caps their best shot at prevailing agains t the same foe at the same venue Saturday.
The plan made sense, but TFC shook off the effect of conceding an early goal and prevailed, 2-1, to win the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, 3-2, on aggregate and qualify for the Concacaf Champions League. Goals scored and set up by Joao Plata 10 minutes apart in the second half wiped out a 1-0 deficit inflicted by Camilo’s strike in the 21st minute.
Mikael Yourassowsky’s goal in the 61st minute following a converted Plata penalty kick earned TFC its their third straight Nutrilite Canadian Championship title. It will face Real Esteli of Nicaragua in the preliminary round starting later this month.
After Vancouver and Toronto FC tied, 1-1, at Empire Field May 18 in the first leg, the teams met again May 26 at BMO Field. With the ‘Caps leading, 1-0, heavy rain and a lightning storm forced the suspension of play in the 60th minute and under rules of the competition, the entire match must be replayed. The game was rescheduled for Saturday, three days after TFC beat Vancouver, 1-0, in a league match.
Camilo’s free kick into the top corner restored Vancouver’s eradicated 1-0 lead and 2-1 advantage on aggregate, and twice the Whitecaps stymied TFC with big defensive plays. Keeper Joe Cannon tipped Julian de Guzman’s shot onto the crossbar, and Michael Boxall cleared a shot by Javier Martina off the goal line.
TFC lost an apparent equalizer in the 41st minute when Martina’s slow roller appeared to cross the goal line before being cleared by defender Jay DeMerit, but no goal was given. Unlucky to be down a goal at halftime, Toronto quickly gained the reward it deserved for its drive and energy.
More controversy arose early in the second half when Jonathan Leathers brought down Plata in the penalty area. Cannon saved Plata’s penalty kick, but referee Dave Gantar ruled the keeper had moved off the goal line too soon. Plata buried his second attempt to tie the game, 1-1, and the aggregate, 2-2.
TFC took the lead when de Guzman sprayed the ball down the left flank for Plata, whose cross Yourassowsky directed into the net.
The preliminary-round games will be played July 27 at BMO Field and Aug. 2 in Nicaragua. The winner advances into Group C of the 2011-12 Concacaf Champions League.