The first leg of the 2016 Amway Canadian Championship kicked off today at BMO Field and Toronto FC came out on top with a one-nil win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Toronto were coming in from a good one-nil win over the LA Galaxy the last time they played at home whereas Vancouver were hoping to bounce back from a narrow two-one defeat at the hands of the New England Revolution. Toronto also opted to start their strongest team possible while Vancouver chose to pick an almost second team with a few players who would be unavailable for Major League Soccer action in the near future.
Whitecaps start strongly
From the first whistle, the Whitecaps pushed forward and pressed Toronto in their own half, looking to capitalise on any misplaced passes or early nerves and it worked. The first chance of the match came in the fourth minute as Vancouver's Sam Adekugbe found space down the left hand side and sent in a great cross to Christian Bolaños who nodded the ball down to a waiting Octavio Rivero. Rivero's header was then saved at point blank range by Toronto's goalkeeper Clint Irwin. The resulting corner produced no chances but not long after that, Pa Modou Kah played a long ball over Toronto's defenders to find an on-rushing Rivero who could only find the side-netting with his shot.
The match then settled as both midfields fought to gain possession and nullify the other side. At this point Vancouver was creating the more chances and another one fell to them when Adekugbe popped up again just outside of the box after a nice one-two with Alphonso Davies but his shot was saved by an inspired Irwin once again.
Toronto finds its rhythym
From then onwards, Toronto seemed to win the midfield battle and a good save was required from Vancouver's Paolo Tornaghi after Sebastian Giovinco tried to find the corner of the goal with his free-kick in the twenty-sixth minute. Toronto's ascendancy continued as a corner-kick evetually found Eriq Zavaleta but his shot went just wide of the goal.
Toronto's pressure finally paid off in the forty-third minute when Toronto's main man Giovinco found space just outside the box after rounding a few Vancouver defenders. Giovinco's shot was deflected off a Vancouver player and sent Tornaghi the wrong way as Toronto took the lead going into half time.
The second half carried on as the first half had ended with Toronto pushing for their second to kill off the match. Giovinco showed his pace as he rounded Kendall Watson and left the defender behind only to watch his long range effort rattle off the post and cleared away by the Vancouver defenders.
Forward Mo Babouli was the next man up for Toronto as they searched for another goal as he met the cross from Justin Morrow in the centre of the box but his effort was saved once again by a busy Tornaghi. Toronto continued to attack and pepper Vancouver's goal as the visitors could not seem to recover any form and were continually penned back by an enthusiastic Toronto side. Vancouver's midfield had to spend most of the match chasing Toronto's midfielders even though they outnumbered them and it showed with the ease Toronto seemed to be making opportunities to score.
Vancouver did create chances of their won as the second half wore on. Watson had his wobbly volley tipped acrobatically over the bar by Irwin in the seventieth minute and from the resulting corner, Bolaños had his effort saved once again by Irwin. Both teams traded shots as the match drew to an end but neither one could find the next goal of the match and it ended one-nil at the final whistle.
Toronto will go to Vancouver knowing that if they can score a goal, they will close in on their sixth all-time championship and will undoubtedly look to the magic of Giovinco to come up on top again. Vancouver will go into the second leg confident though as they are only down by one goal but they will be weary of Toronto's speed on the counter. It is all still to play for in the Canadian Championship.