While Santos Laguna and Monterrey were facing off for the confederation championship (and the Club World Cup spot that goes with it), there was another title being contested north of the border, one which began its semifinal stage on Wednesday night. The Canadian Championship got underway with its two eastern teams — Toronto and Montréal — facing off on one side of the bracket, while the Vancouver Whitecaps took on NASL opposition, FC Edmonton, on the other.
In Toronto, the big stars took the night off. There was no Robert Earnshaw. Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta were rested for Montréal. Even some of the lesser renowned starters got a rest, with Ryan Nelsen and Marco Schaillbaum forced to balance their Major League Soccer commitments against their domestic competition.
The absences made a difference on the field. According to the MLS league website, who also focused on Toronto defender Darren O’Rea, the “technical ability of those four veteran players was clearly missed during a spirited but sloppily played first half …”
Toronto managed to put something together in the second half. Doneil Henry opened the scoring four minutes into the extra period, rocketing a ball high into Evan Bush’s net, while Andrew Wiedeman closed the scoring late thanks to a setup from Luis Silva. TFC will take a 2-0 lead into next Wednesday’s rematch in Montréal.
The nightcap in Edmonton was more lively. Camilo Sanvezzo’s direct kick opened Vancouver’s account in the fifth minute, though Edmonton quickly responded. Michael Cox’s eighth minute tally was followed 20 minutes later by a score from Chris Nurse, whose header gave Edmonton a lead they’d hold late into the second half.
In the 82nd minute, Vancouver responded, with Camilo’s second (off a controversially given penalty) leaving the match tied at two. Not content with a draw and multiple goals away from home, Vancouver snatched the lead when Tom Heinemann took advantage of an 88th minute mistake from the Edmonton defense, sending Vancouver home up 3-2.
With a CONCACAF Champions League spot at stake, tonight’s result moves us closer to a rematch of the last two finals. Each time, Toronto and Vancouver made the last two. Each time, Toronto qualified for CCL.