May 24, 2011 MLS--Toronto Hunts For Winter's First Trophy (from

Toronto Hunts For Winter's First Trophy
May 24, 2011

Toronto FC is back from a fruitful road trip where the Reds held MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids scoreless on Sunday, but not before taking an important 
away goal through Maicon Santos last Wednesday, drawing Vancouver Whitecaps FC 1-1 in the first leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. That outcome 
sets up Toronto well for the mouth-watering return fixture at BMO Field, it's Toronto v. Vancouver, NCC Final Second Leg (8 p.m. ET on Rogers Sportsnet). 

This is the most important match to date for either side in 2011. Toronto has won the NCC title two years running and a three-peat would put the Reds 
in a favourable position to return to the group stage of the 2011/12 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). A scoreless draw or an outright 
victory would put Toronto through to the CCL preliminary round against Nicaraguan opposition. It would also mark the first trophy for head coach and 
technical director Aron Winter since arriving in Toronto in January with a view to long term success. Toronto captain Maicon Santos is the leading goal 
scorer in the four-team NCC knockout tourney with three from as many games. 

Midfielders Tony Tchani and Jacob Peterson were injured in the first leg to Vancouver. Tchani returned to training on Tuesday but Peterson was nowhere 
to be found. Alan Gordon missed the trip out west with an abductor strain, he too skipped practice at Cherry Beach and was deemed unlikely 
to play Wednesday.

Vancouver has never won the NCC and after a tremendous start to their first MLS season – a 4-2 win over Toronto on March 19 – the Whitecaps have yet 
to manufacture another league victory over 11 games. Vancouver has the benefit of being well rested. The Caps didn't have a weekend league match, 
unlike Toronto, and will look to exploit the Reds who picked up knocks along the way before what will be their 10th match in about a month.  
Vancouver striker Eric Hassli has already made a habit of scoring against Toronto. The Swiss designated player bagged a brace against the Reds 
in Vancouver's only league win and then found the score sheet once more in the first leg of the NCC Final. 

Vancouver is relatively healthy, fielding most of the same 18 players they did a week ago at Empire Field. Atiba Harris and John Thorrington missed 
the match last week and will continue to be sidelined.

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