Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Nutrilite Canadian Championships: Toronto v. Vancouver liveblog

Today sees another clash in the Nutrilite Canadian Championships, the home-and-home series between all three USL-1 and MLS Canadian clubs to see who gets the CONCACAF Champions League qualifying berth. So far, Montreal's beaten Vancouver twice and Toronto knocked off Montreal once. Today, in a perfect Canada Day tilt, Vancouver and Toronto face off at BMO Field. I'll be live-blogging the action from my home in Surrey, and Eric Koreen of the National Post has a good blog from the stadium.

Here's the lineups:
Toronto FC:
Keeper: Greg Sutton
Defenders: Marvell Wynne, Marco Velez, Tyrone Marshall and Jim Brennan
Midfielders: Rohan Ricketts, Carl Robinson, Maurice Edu and Laurent Robert
Strikers: Amado Guevara and Danny Dichio

Vancouver Whitecaps
Keeper: Jay Nolly
Defenders: Steve Kindel, Omar Jarun and Lyle Martin
Midfielders: Jeff Clarke, Martin Nash, Alfredo Valente, Takashi Hirano and Justin Moose
Strikers: Nicholas Addlery and Eduardo Sebrango

1st Half:

5: A couple of early free kicks for both sides, but little comes of it.

7: A free kick blasted by TFC's Laurent Robert, right to Jay Nolly though.

10: Bit of a shoving match between Martin Nash of the Whitecaps (Steve's little brother) and TFC's Jim Brennan, but no bookings. Certainly some passion here.

11: Pretty even so far: not too many offensive chances.

13: Vancouver corner kick, but headed away.

18: Brennan breaks through on the left, shot wide though.

22: Alfredo Valente makes a run through on the left, but TFC's speedy Marvell Wynne tracks back and dispossesses him.

23: Long kick in for the Whitecaps, but Addlery heads it wide.

25: Robert unleashes a long blast, punched wide by Nolly. His subsequent corner is cleared.

27: Carl Robinson finds Guevara with a great through ball, but the Whitecaps clear before he can get a shot.

29: Marco Velez takes down Addlery close in, but Valente's free kick goes past everyone to Kindel, who can't get a shot off.

34: Nash fires a pass into the Toronto box, but no one can get on the end of it.

36: PENALTY! Corner kick in by Vancouver, referee calls a penalty for obstruction. A highly unusual call, as the CBC commentators point out.

37: GOAL, Vancouver: Martin Nash makes no mistake, slotting the ball past Greg Sutton beautifully. 1-0 Whitecaps.

38: The commentators confirm that the call went against Jim Brennan, who gave Jeff Clarke a bear-hug outside of the first camera shot. I agree that it seems to be a fair call when you see the angle that includes it.

40: Hirano is left all alone down the left and lets fly from 25 yards, barely missing the corner. Sloppy defending by TFC there: it could have been 2-0.

42: Justin Moose takes a corner, cleared by TFC. A quick counterattack featuring a long run from Marvell Wynne, but well-defended by the Caps. Impressive considering that they no longer have defensive stalwart Adrian Cann, the Caps' only player who regularly appears for Canada: he's off to Europe.

43: Toronto corner, in to Ricketts, but he can't get a shot off.

45: Lovely run by Valente down the left flank and a great cross in for Sebrango who hits it first time. Sutton makes a difficult leg save and the Caps earn the corner, but they should have scored there. The corner's cleared by the Toronto defence.

45: Justin Moose takes Laurent Robert down from behind, and earns a yellow card for his trouble.

That ends the first half. Vancouver's outplayed Toronto thus far, which doubtless will shock all the MLS stalwarts who think the USL is crap. The difference between these leagues isn't as great as many claim. Vancouver might live to regret missing a couple of those easy first-half chances though, as TFC is definitely still in the match.

Halftime: CBC has a cool feature on Martin and Steve Nash. I love the rumours about Steve Nash becoming a part owner of the Whitecaps: he's got a great flair for promoting soccer (just consider his charity game [The New York Times]) and I'm sure MLS would look more favourably at Vancouver's bid to join if he was involved: he'd be a great promoter for their league.

2nd half:

46: Multiple changes for TFC. Jeff Cunningham in for Danny Dichio, Jarrod Smith in for Laurent Robert and Julius James in for Rohan Ricketts. John Carver is obviously an unhappy manager at the moment.

48: A brilliant save by Nolly: he was way out of position after coming out to challenge a shot, but dived back across the goal to punch the ball clear off a second effort.

51: Julius James takes down Moose: free kick.

51: Nash takes the kick, Vancouver works it in to Hirano, but his shot is blocked. A much better effort from the Whitecaps thus far than what I saw in person last week against Montreal.

54: Jarrod Smith breaks in for TFC and goes up against Jeff Clarke. He goes to ground and appeals for a penalty, but the referee refuses to hear his case, much to the dismay of the red-clad hordes in BMO Field. The right call, in my mind: he went down like a straw blowing in the wind.

56: A good ball in for Smith, but Hirano comes through with a key defensive header. Corner, TFC.

57: Guevara delivers a strong corner and a scramble in the box ensues, but Nolly stops Maurice Edu's eventual weak header.

58: Cunningham breaks through for Toronto, but is called offside.

59: Sebrango is played through brilliantly by Alfredo Valente and is in alone, but just drills the ball low and into Sutton. Poorly taken: if he had put it up higher, it would have been 2-0. Nash then fires a long shot right at Sutton. These squandered chances may come back to haunt the caps.

60: Corner in by Guevara, but Sebrango heads clear.

61: Maurice Edu played in just onside: a good call by the linesman. Nolly has to come forward and make a good save. I agree with the CBC commentators: the officiating's been excellent so far, in my mind.

62: Hirano seems to be hurt: he's receiving treatment on the side. Vancouver's down to ten men for the moment.

64: Sideline reporter Brenda Irving adds a hilarious note: apparently Toronto manager John Carver and Vancouver manager Teitur Thordarson were yelling at each other about the officiating in the tunnel at half-time. Extra security's been added and the two have been asked to avoid crossing paths at the end of the match.

65: Toronto corner, but nothing comes of it.

66: Brennan breaks through on the left, comes up against Clarke and goes down in the box appealing for a penalty, but none is called. Interestingly, it was a Brennan foul on Clarke that led to the Vancouver penalty. This was a good non-call in my mind, though: Brennan went down reasonably easily. A bit of a clash between Clarke and Brennan after the fact.

67: Hirano can't return and comes off. He's replaced bu Diaz Kambere, a solid defender from my hometown of Surrey, B.C.

69: A good TFC buildup goes for naught as Guevara drills one a mile over the bar into the stands.

71: Good cross by Brennan, but Smith heads it far over the bar.

75: New Whitecap Charles Gbeke on, Sebrango comes off.

77: Gbeke makes a quick impact, sneaking in behind the defense, and Vancouver earns a long free kick.

78: Nash fires the kick wide from 30 yards out.

80: Cunningham breaks through and scores, but it's called back for offside. He takes his shirt off and jumps into the crowd before he realizes that it won't count. I think this is the first one the officials got wrong: he looked onside to me, although it was close. TFC's really putting on the pressure now.

83: A James shot hits a defender on the way through, and the ball falls to Guevara at the top of the box. He lets fly, and Nolly makes a great punch to clear it.

84: Corner to Robinson, sets up Brennan, but the shot goes wide.

84: Gbeke almost adds another for the Caps against the run of play, ringing a header off the post. We should be in for a great finish: both sides are going for it.

85: Maurice Edu sends a brilliant chip in for Cunningham, but he can't finish.

86: Goalline scramble, Smith rings it off the underside of the bar and another shot hits a defender and goes out for a corner. Toronto is really piling it on here.

87: Guevara's corner is cleared to Robinson at the top of the box, but he drills it into the stands. As Nigel Reed just said on CBC, "Honestly, the last four or five minutes, I can't remember the last time I got so excited at a soccer game." This has been brilliant. For all those soccer snobs who think only European soccer is worth watching, you don't know what you're missing!

88: Martin Nash gets a great chance in close off a pass by Addlery, but he hesitates too long and Guevara makes a brilliant sliding tackle to save the day for TFC.

89: Steve Kindel gets another good chance for Vancouver, but he's stopped by Sutton.

90: Great cross in by Brennan, but Nolly makes a fantastic save. Two minutes of stoppage time to go.

91: A shot from Edu hits a defender and doesn't make it through.

91: Addlery called for an obvious offside. Toronto running out of time here.

93: This stoppage time is going on forever: much longer than the suggested 2 minutes.

93: They've clarified it: it's four minutes that have been added.

94: Another TFC blast from Smith and Nolly makes a great save. Corner TFC.

94: Corner in, Sutton comes forward and gets his head on it, but pushes it just wide.

95: TFC pushes forward once more, but the ball's cleared. They're out of time, and the Whitecaps have struck a historic blow for the USL. More to come later on this win's significance.

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