Despite draw, pressure on TFC

		Goalkeeper Milos Kocic of Toronto FC watches the shot of Eric Hassli of the Vancouver Whitecaps...

Goalkeeper Milos Kocic of Toronto FC watches the shot of Eric Hassli of the Vancouver Whitecaps hit the back of the net during the second half of the first leg of the 2012 Canadian Championship. (Getty)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:01 PM ET

Before the opening leg of the Canadian Cup final at BC Place, Toronto FC would have been more than satisfied with a draw.

Aron Winter’s side battled through the first 45 minutes without conceding and looked brighter leading up to Ryan Johnson’s towering second-half header, a clinical finish in a match in which most thought TFC wouldn’t grab a lead.

But much like the previous semifinal leg in Montreal — a result that turned out to be good enough after the Reds beat the Impact in the return — Wednesday’s 1-1 finish is a result that doesn’t sit well ahead of next week’s return.

“It wasn’t one of our best performances so it’s nice to be in the position we’re in,” Vancouver head coach Martin Rennie said confidently. “I think there’s always pressure but going into that game (at BMO Field) there’s a little more, perhaps, on TFC.”

Had Nick Soolsma doubled TFC’s lead on a sitter he bungled with just over 10 minutes remaining, Toronto might have been set to laugh its way through next week’s second leg, leading 2-0 with a pair of away goals.

“I think that was a key moment in the tie, one we might look back on,” Rennie said of Joe Cannon’s point-blank save, a big moment that changes the complexion as Vancouver remains a goal and a clean sheet away from capturing its first Voyageurs Cup.

As verified in stoppage time Wednesday, a clean sheet in the return is the unlikeliest of scenarios for a Toronto back line that showed its inexperience when it could least afford it earlier this week.

In a near repeat of last year’s Cup final, it will likely take multiple goals for the Reds to claim their fourth straight title — scary seeing as Toronto has been held scoreless in more than half its games at BMO Field this season.

HEAD SCRATCHER

Surprising nobody mentioned how poor Ashton Morgan was on Eric Hassli’s stoppage-time dagger.

While Morgan’s minor lapses are typically brushed off as youthful mistakes, the 21-year-old has to be better at this point in his development, especially in clutch situations.

As Doneil Henry was the closest TFC defender to the big Frenchman, despite having an outstanding match against a very talented attack, some will blame the young central defender for Hassli’s open look.

But replays showed Morgan well out of position in the 92nd minute, streaking across the middle of the penalty area for some inexplicable reason.

Toronto’s starting left back is lucky Canadian national team head Stephen Hart didn’t remove his name from the preliminary World Cup qualifying list based on how scattered he was at the death — something that could come back to haunt the Reds in the return leg next week.

It isn’t the first time this season the club’s academy product has been caught in no-man’s land during a floated, seemingly harmless, ball into the box.

ROSTER NAMED

Hart named his preliminary roster Thursday for next month’s friendly against the U.S. and a pair of World Cup qualifiers.

The mix of Major League Soccer and foreign-based players on the 22-man roster will meet for an 11-day camp in Florida next week before a friendly June 3 against the Americans at BMO Field in Toronto.

Canada’s roster features goalkeepers Milan Borjan, Lars Hirschfeld and Kenny Stamatopoulos; defenders David Edgar, André Hainault, Ante Jazic, Mike Klukowski, Nik Ledgerwood, Kevin McKenna and Ashtone Morgan; midfielders Julian de Guzman, Atiba Hutchinson, Will Johnson, Issey Nakajima-Farran, Pedro Pacheco, Samuel Piette and Josh Simpson; and forwards Dwayne De Rosario, Iain Hume, Simeon Jackson, Olivier Occean and Tosaint Ricketts.

Canada opens the third round of CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying June 8 in Cuba and hosts Honduras June 12 at BMO Field. The team resumes its World Cup quest in mid-September with a home-and-away setup against Panama before finishing with two matches in October at home to Cuba and away to Honduras.

The top two finishers in Canada’s group advance to CONCACAF’s six-team final round, from which the top three nations secure automatic qualification to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

DUNFIELD DROPPED

After making just about every Canadian squad over the past two years, Hart said he spoke with Terry Dunfield about his exclusion from yesterday’s roster.

“I’ve tried a different sort of mix in the midfield — a different sort of balance,” Hart said. “I didn’t want too many similar players. But Terry is playing fairly regular now. This is the opening part of qualification and I’ll keep an eye on him and see how he does.”

Translation: It hasn’t been good enough, Terry.

Despite having multiple solid outings in 2012, Dunfield has had a handful of damning performances early in the season. The Vancouver native played a key role in handing Montreal its first MLS win last month when a careless possession in the back third led to the Impact’s opener at the Big O.

Worse for the 30-year-old, midfielder Samuel Piette, a 17-year-old from Repentigny, Que., found his way onto Hart’s preliminary roster after impressing at CONCACAF’s recent Olympic qualifying tournament.


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