Toronto FC is in position to steal another Voyageurs Cup.
Thanks mainly to keeper Stefan Frei, Toronto FC escaped from Vancouver with a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night in the first leg of the final of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.
That puts the team in good position to come away with a third-straight Canadian title, following its rematch with the Whitecaps at BMO Field next Wednesday.
After beating Toronto 4-2 to open the Major League Soccer season – its only league win - Vancouver picked up where it left off.
Vancouver has never hoisted the Voyageurs Cup, but looked well on its way on Wednesday, completely dominating the Reds in a one-sided first half.
Frei was forced to scramble all over the place and made a number of great saves, adding to a season filled with great ones.
The Reds went into the half tied, but the Whitecaps kept coming in the second half.
Toronto defender Adrian Cann should have been called for a tackle leading to a penalty but it was let go. Then, the Reds got very lucky in the 47th minute and again a minute later when Eric Hassli hit the post. Midfielder Camilo fired a shot off the crossbar not long after that as Toronto continued to look hapless.
The luck finally ran out in the 64th minute when keeper Jay Nolly started a play that ended with a goal by Hassli off a nice pass from David Chiumiento.
Frei got a piece of the drive, but couldn’t keep it out.
Strangely, the Hassli goal seemed to revive the Reds.
TFC finally got some pressure going, generating a few corner kicks which put the Whitecaps on their heels, before captain Maicon Santos scored the equalizer in the 74th minute.
Santos made a beautiful deflection of a nice cross from Nick Soolsma, who might have been the best TFC player on the night.
From there, content with a road draw, the Reds went into a defensive shell, playing keep-away with the Whitecaps who still came very close to coming away with the win and would have had Frei not been in top form.
The crowd in Vancouver was surprisingly larger and more vocal than was to be expected, considering the Vancouver Canucks were hosting the San Jose Sharks in game 2 of the Western Conference finals at the same time.
Toronto has not had many breaks this season, but got one late when it appeared Dan Gargan made a back pass to Frei, which should have led to a penalty.
Vancouver head coach Thiodur Thorefson and Toronto counterpart Aron Winter both played their top lineups despite having big league matches coming up.
However, injuries forced Winter to remove Jacob Peterson and Tony Tchani in favour of rookies Matt Gold and Oscar Cordon.
Toronto is now in the driver’s seat thanks to scoring an away goal and can claim another trophy next week.
Vancouver appeared to have one in the bag in 2009, but Toronto scored six goals against Montreal to steal the Canadian Championship on goal differential.
Before another Voyageurs Cup can be hoisted though, Toronto must face the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids on the road on Saturday.