May 6, 2009 MLS Toronto FC vs Vancouver Whitecaps (from

Whitecaps nipped 1-0 in Toronto
MLS side takes initial lead in Nutrilite Canadian Championship
Vancouver Whitecaps News Release -

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

TORONTO, ON -- The Vancouver Whitecaps suffered a disappointing 1-0 away defeat to Major League Soccer club Toronto FC in the opening match of the 2009 Nutrilite Canadian Championship on Wednesday evening.

An early goal from former Whitecaps player Kevin Harmse gave the MLS club three valuable points to open the second edition of the three-club competition, which also includes last year's winners in USL First Division side Montreal Impact. Though the scoreline remained close throughout the match, TFC showed enough pedigree and composure to outlast the 2008 USL-1 champions, with the 'Caps struggling to create many clear-cut chances at BMO Field.

Defeat at Toronto's Exhibition Place brings the Whitecaps three-match unbeaten run to an end and leaves Vancouver in need of results from their remaining three matches in the tournament, with the winner claiming Canada's lone spot in the 2009-10 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson made four changes from the side that started last Saturday's 3-2 win at Minnesota Thunder in USL-1. Marco Reda and Mason Trafford replaced Luca Bellisomo and Takashi Hirano in Vancouver's backline, with centre back Jeff Parke making his second competitive start for the club at right fullback. Bellisomo was not dressed for Wednesday's contest, while Reda was given the chance to face his hometown club. In midfield, Vicente Arze and Justin Moose replaced Ethan Gage and Wes Knight, with Moose making his first start of the 2009 campaign.

TFC interim head coach Chris Cummins, meanwhile, made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 at home with MLS Cup holders Columbus Crew on Saturday. Nana Attakora-Gyan earned his first start of the season for the Reds, as he replaced the injured Adrian Serioux and partnered former Puerto Rico Islanders defender Marco Velez at centre back. Harmse earned the chance to face his former club, as replaced Sam Cronin in midfield, while Dwayne De Rosario started in a wide attacking role on the left-hand side after replacing striker Danny Dichio, with Cummins sticking to his preferred 4-3-3 formation.

On a wet Southern Ontario evening, it was TFC that gave their passionate supporters something to shout about after just three minutes. Amado Guevara found De Rosario wide on the left-hand side before the Canadian international made a surging run towards the Vancouver byline. Eluding the attentions of his marker in Parke, De Rosario play a fine cross to the far post, where Harmse had timed his run to perfection to head the ball past Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly and give the Reds a valuable lead.

It was a stunning start by TFC, who struck with their first chance of the match, and having conceded their first goal at BMO Field, the Whitecaps looked a bit rattled after going behind so early in the contest.

However, the visitors soon settled down with some good possession, and on seven minutes, the 'Caps had decent claims for a penalty after striker Marlon James did well to turn Attakora-Gyan in the TFC box. The Canadian youth international looked to have pulled down the Vancouver goalscorer, but match referee Silviu Petrescu waved away any appeals from the Blue and White. A minute later, TFC striker Chad Barrett forced Nolly into a save after getting in behind the Whitecaps backline.

Moments later, the 'Caps were forced into an early substitution when Reda clashed heads with Attakora-Gyan, as the pair both went for a ball in the TFC box. Opting not take any chances, Thordarson replace the former TFC central defender with youngster Knight. The former College of Charleston star moved into the right fullback position, while Parke shifted to the centre of the Vancouver defence to partner Wesley Charles.

While the Whitecaps struggled to penetrate their MLS hosts, TFC caused problems when in possession during the first half, with captain Jim Brennan forcing another stop from Nolly after a short corner on 17 minutes, while at the other end, Arze volleyed a chance high and wide for the Whitecaps a minute later.

More chances were traded after Charles Gbeke was booked for a foul on Reds defender Marvell Wynne on 25 minutes. Nolly had to make a routine diving save from De Rosario's low shot a minute later, while at the other end, Charles volleyed a cleared Whitecaps corner well off target on 28 minutes.

TFC's attacking quality meant they were always a threat when given the chance, as they were handed on 40 minutes after Arze had fouled Guevara near the edge of the Whitecaps box. The Honduras captain stepped up to take the set-piece, but his effort curled wide of goal.

The last chance of the half fell to Moose on 43 minutes after Attakora-Gyan and James both connected Knight's decent cross into the TFC box from the right. Despite being in a good position in front of goal, the former D.C. United midfielder was only able to half-hit his shot into the arms of TFC's rookie goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

As a result, the Reds took a one-goal lead to the halftime break.

More rain greeted both sets of players for the start of the second half, with TFC creating another opening for Barrett on 49 minutes. The former Chicago Fire striker latched onto Wynne's through ball from the right before bearing down on the Whitecaps goal. However, Nolly was equal to his low finish by saving the shot with his leg.

Vancouver's onus for the remainder of the match was to find a way past Frei, but Arze was unable to test the Swiss-born keeper with his long-range shot on 53 minutes, while at the other end, De Rosario took a needless yellow card after handling Barrett's dangerous cross from the right at the near post two minutes later.

The growing rivalry that is building in these Canadian Championship games was seen throughout Wednesday's match, with goalscorer Harmse and Charles being booked following an altercation near the edge of the Whitecaps box.

Looking for a second goal to secure the three points, TFC forced the Whitecaps backline into some fine defending on 64 minutes, with Charles doing well to clear away Brennan's dangerous cross from the left for a corner. From Guevara's ensuing set-piece, De Rosario struck a shot over Nolly's crossbar from the edge of the Vancouver box.

With two substitutions left to use, Thordarson introduced Hirano to the match for Moose on 66 minutes. The Japanese defender went to left fullback, while Trafford shifted into central midfield. Three minutes later, the ever-dangerous De Rosario made a fine run before finding Barrett with a through ball in the Whitecaps box. Though in a decent position to strike at goal, the TFC striker's weak shot rolled into the arms of the diving Nolly.

At the other end, both Gbeke and James struggled to have many chances present themselves in the TFC box, and they were left disappointed on 71 minutes after Arze could only find the arms of Frei with a low cross from right after Parke had picked out the Bolivian winger with a decent ball.

The Whitecaps final substitution created some more club history, as Gage became the first player from the club's Residency program to make an appearance in a Canadian Championship match when he replaced Toure on 76 minutes.

With time winding down on the 'Caps, their efforts to find a valuable equalizer finally presented a major opportunity on 86 minutes, but after Parke had released James with a fine through ball into the TFC box, Frei did brilliantly to dive to his right and stop the big striker's low finish.

It proved to be the last chance for the Whitecaps to find a leveler in Toronto, with De Rosario and Guevara having late chances for TFC before three minutes of time added on were played. Despite some last-ditch pressure from the visitors, the final whistle confirmed TFC's first-ever win over the Whitecaps in club history.

The Whitecaps will now look to regroup by returning home and preparing for the visit of last season's USL-1 regular season champions Puerto Rico Islanders to Swangard Stadium on Sunday night. Vancouver's next match in the Canadian Championship comes on the road again, as they face Voyageurs Cup holders Montreal at Stade Saputo in Quebec on Wednesday, May 20.

TFC, meanwhile, will return to MLS matters this weekend, as they travel to face D.C. United on Saturday night before returning home for their final Canadian Championship home match of 2009, as they host the Impact at BMO Field next Wednesday night.

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