Many fans will be left wondering at what could have been as Vancouver Whitecaps FC went down to a 2-0 loss against fellow Canadians, Toronto FC. The game seemed to be heading towards a late decider from either team or a scoreless draw until Brek Shea was sent off late in the game and handed the advantage to the visitors.
Toronto wasted no time in capitalizing on their man-advantage and have now picked up their first three points after three games in Major League Soccer action while the Whitecaps are now sitting with just one point to their name after three games.
A first half with not many chances ends in a draw
There was not much to see in terms of goal mouth action in the first half as Vancouver sat back and allowed Toronto to maintain most of the possession in the hopes of catching them on the break to score. This meant that the Whitecaps did not register their first shot on target until the second half of the game. The closest they came to scoring was in the 22nd minute when Fredy Montero closed down goalkeeper Alex Bono as he tried to kick the ball away. Fortunately for Toronto, the ball ricocheted off Montero and out for a goal kick. The other opportunity of the first half for Vancouver came in the 38th minute when Tosaint Ricketts coughed up the ball at the edge of his own box which allowed right back Sheanon Williams to find Fredy Montero at the near post. Nothing came of that opportunity as Montero's flick on did not find anyone else in the box and Toronto were able to get the ball back in their possession.
Toronto had the best chances of the half, even though most of them came from set pieces as Michael Bradley put in great deliveries time and time again. The first chance of the half came in the 18th minute when Bradley found Nick Hagglund at the far post from the corner but the defender, who has a knack for scoring goal from corners, was unable to put his shot on target. The next opportunity came in the 27th minute as this time, Drew Moor was found by Bradley's corner but he was unable to adjust quickly enough to send his effort on target. In between those two opportunities, Justin Morrow thought he had a good shout for a penalty after Bradley found him unmarked in the box. Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston was able to recover quickly enough to put in a challenge on Morrow after his first touch had failed him, and put the ball behind for a TFC corner kick.
Shea loses his cool and hands Toronto the chance to win the game
Vancouver actually started the second half on top even though Ricketts almost scored after the whistle had blown to start the second half however, his curling effort was deflected out for a corner which resulted in nothing for Toronto. After that, it was all Vancouver as they began to pin Toronto back in their own half and try to create opportunities through substitute Christian Bolaños. Bolaños found pockets of spaces in front of Toronto's back three and was able to pick out his teammates in dangerous positions quite often, even though they did not take the opportunities granted to them. Vancouver may have had the majority of the possession then but the next best chance to open the scoring fell to Morrow in the 66th minute only for debutant goalkeeper Spencer Richey to make a great stop.
The game began to look like it would take a late bit of magic from someone to win it as the clock began to dwindle down until the 70th minute when Brek Shea was sent off. The winger had initially been booked for a foul on Hagglund and managed to talk his way into a straight red card from referee Ismail Elfath. It was a poor show of discipline from a player who seemed to have put that side of him behind him for the most part and it cost his team the game. It will be interesting to see if Shea will keep his spot in the starting eleven after this or if head coach Carl Robinson will recall Kekuta Manneh into his lineup.
Vanney makes the right calls to get all three points
The red card gave Toronto the ascendancy and head coach Greg Vanney made the appropriate substitutions to try and win the game. Vanney kept the same formation as he had started with but he brought on Víctor Vázquez and youngster Raheem Edwards for the ineffectual Armando Cooper and an inconsistent Ricketts. They were great choices by the TFC man and both substitutes were heavily involved in Toronto's two goals.
Six minutes after Shea was sent off, and two minutes after he had come on, Edwards' cross found Jozy Altidore at the back post unmarked. The striker then nodded the ball towards Vázquez who could not miss from there and headed the ball into the back of the net from close range to give Toronto the lead. The away side was not done yet and in the 80th minute, Altidore scored the game-winner as he spun away from Waston and blasted the ball home, away from Richey's outstretched hand. A fine bit of coaching by Vanney and some great play from Toronto's offense gave them the win, which based on overall chances created, that they deserved.