TFC earns bid for 3rd straight Nutrilite Canadian Championship

TFC's Tony Tchani takes a shot in the first half of Wednesday's fame against Edmonton. (MICHAEL...

TFC's Tony Tchani takes a shot in the first half of Wednesday's fame against Edmonton. (MICHAEL PEAKE/Toronto Sun)

Ryan Wolstat, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:10 AM ET

Toronto FC will play for its third straight Nutrilite Canadian Championship later this month.

The Major League Soccer outfit closed out its two-leg semifinal with FC Edmonton on Wednesday with a 1-0 victory.

That followed a 3-0 Reds triumph at Commonwealth Stadium last week and sets up a home-and-home May 18 and May 25 with the Vancouver-Montreal winner (Vancouver led 1-0 on an away win prior to Wednesday's late match).

TFC defeated Edmonton 3-0 last week to open the competition, but did not look particularly strong in doing so. Edmonton played much of the match with just 10 men but still kept things interesting.

Since then, TFC put on a hideous performance in Seattle, losing 3-0 to the Sounders, while Edmonton was humiliated in its league home opener by Montreal 5-0.

Unlike the previous meeting, Toronto started off strong and came at FCE in waves, putting pressure on the defence.

TFC's midfielders gave their forwards excellent service, but the forwards could not turn the chances into shots on FCE keeper Jas Gill until Joao Plata unleased one in the 19th minute.

Plata, who gave Edmonton fits a week ago, came through a couple of minutes later, faking out a defender before feeding Alan Gordon with a beautiful pass to open the scoring in the 21st minute.

The diminutive Plata continues to make a strong case for more playing time.

On a team starving for creativity and goals, Plata has so far proven to be a potential sparkplug.

Despite his lack of size, the Ecuadorian has made his mark in every appearance, running past or around defenders and showing an ability to pick out teammates.

Few of Plata's mates showed much spark on this night and the offence fizzled after the strong beginning, but luckily for the home side, Edmonton never looked dangerous.

Edmonton's game picked up as the first half drew on, but the Eddies could not get a shot on Stefan Frei, Toronto's best player in the debacle in Seattle.

The visitors were not able to direct a shot on goal on Frei until the match was an hour old.

Meanwhile, TFC came close again in the 68th minute when Plata's attempt at an open net was blocked by an Edmonton defender.

Gill, the keeper, had been caught in no-man's land chasing an errant shot.

FC Edmonton's first appearance at this tournament didn't last long, but the fledgling team made a decent initial showing.

The Eddies responded well to the punishment inflicted by Montreal last weekend. The team shored up its defence considerably, holding the Reds mostly in check.

Edmonton has two wins in four league matches despite managing only three goals vs. eight against and offence continued to be a concern for head coach Harry Sinkgraven. The club looked considerably more dangerous against Toronto at home last week and gave Frei much of this night off.

TFC did what it needed to get through and little more, but still left the field to cheers from the 17,937 on hand.

It wasn't perfect, but it was a heck of a lot better than the letdown in Seattle.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


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